This morning I baked some Irish Seedy Bread. Soda breads come together quickly, and I really love the moment when the bread has been kneaded and it has rested for a few minutes on the the wooden board. It is then the loaf is marked with a cross and then place it in a hot oven. I have tried to skip the resting part, but then the cross becomes difficult (indeed). The bread just does not want to give. I have learned to wait. This bread actually makes a very good communion bread. It is rustic, slightly sweet, and the caraway and raisin are always surprising. Communion should at least periodically catch us off guard. God seldom sets a predictable, bland table before us, but at times we forget that.
As the rains came and went, we sat and talked, laughed much, cried a little, paused, prayed, and shared a simple meal of soup and bread. If you are thinking that sounds like Communion, I do agree.
I have promised to send the recipe for Seedy Bread, so here it is. The recipe is adapted from Nick Malgieri's book, How To Bake (Harper Collins 1995). His recipe calls for baking the bread at 450 degrees. I have found this to be too hot, so I bake at 425. In my oven 450 results in a bread with burnt pellets of raisins.
3 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 cup raisins
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Stir well to mix. With your fingertips quickly rub the butter into your dough. It is easier if the butter is at room temperature.
Add the caraway seeds.
Add the raisins.
Add the buttermilk (or milk with vinegar added) and stir gently with a rubber spatula - it will form a slightly sticky dough. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for about 5 minutes. I did find myself wondering this morning what would happen if the dough was not covered, but I did not experiment. I confess I find covering bread dough comforting. Cooking is a science, but it is also more.
Remove the dough from the bowl to a lightly floured work surface and gently knead it for about a minute or so - until it looks somewhat cohesive.
Form into a round loaf and place on a cookie sheet or baking sheet covered in parchment or buttered foil.
Let the dough rest again for 10 minutes or so. Then give thanks (my suggestion) and mark it with a fairly substantial cross, or an X if that makes you feel more comfortable (do not skip this step or your bread may end up looking like a volcano). Place it in a 425 degree oven for about 45 minutes until it is risen, is deep brown in color, and an inserted toothpick or skewer comes out clean. Do pay more attention to your bread than the timer. Today, mine was fully baked in 35 minutes.
Place on a rack to cool.
This bread does not keep well, so enjoy with others, and give thanks (yes, again). We learned today that it goes well with not only a homemade soup, but also with a nice crisp Fuji apple. Followed by snicker doodles.
Thank you, Nick Malgieri. I take full responsibility for the side notes.