The American Baking Competition has us baking again. But behind the elaborate pastries and the perfect pies it’s the simplicity of baking where the pleasure lies. We revisit a classic
Baking has never been more popular and everyone wants a slice.
The truth is, though, that in some parts of the world, baking never went away. In some parts of the world, long walks end in buttered brown bread and huge mugs of tea. In some parts of the world, smoked salmon must be eaten with an oven-fresh loaf and a squeeze of lemon.
We happen to know where that part of the world is.
The Food Revolution sped through Ireland and its legacy is a tasty one. Ireland's chefs have always prized themselves on using fresh local produce, and this remains key to Ireland's culinary success. Foraging is a food trend favorite and County Clare's Burren Lamb is gracing plates from Clare to Canberra. Galway and Louth oysters are making their way steadily up the list of most delicious delicacies, and cafés and restaurants have embraced many contemporary cuisines.
But no matter how innovative chefs become, a country should always save space for the classics.
In Ireland’s case, that classic is Soda Bread.
Baked is beautiful
Good Food Ireland are passionate about Irish cuisine. When they recently quizzed Derek O’Brien, Principle of the National Bakery School Dublin, about the impact of baking’s new-found popularity he was pleased to say the least:
“People are waking up to the smell of real bread again – I’m thrilled and delighted.”
As O’Brien goes on to say, the mass production method for bread “was commercially developed after WWII to produce bread quickly and cheaply”.
Emer Fallon manager and chef at Louis Mulcahy's Café on the Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry, has placed freshly baked bread, cakes and tarts at the core of the café’s menu. For Emer, the baking revolution is a happy return to basics.
“I think for a while Irish people were seduced by the lushness of white yeast breads,” Emer tells us, “but there’s been a huge swing back to our own native brown soda bread.”
And why wouldn’t there be. Ireland’s best bread didn’t become a national institution for nothing. Emer again:
“When you think about it – it’s a complex carbohydrate, it’s full of fibre, and it keeps you full for much longer than a slice of processed white bread would. It’s also seriously delicious.”
Soda bread often takes pride of place on the kitchen table in an Irish home, where the family gather round for a large cup of tea, and freshly baked bread topped with real Irish butter and locally produced blueberry jam. A B&B in Ireland may be the best place to experience the flavor of Irish soda bread. Irish B&B's are famous worldwide for their hospitality, where the B&B host will welcome guests with a mouth-watering Irish breakfast, and some fresh homemade goodies, such as scones and bread.
Until you get the chance to visit Ireland and enjoy the hospitality of an Irish B&B, why not bake your own Traditional Irish brown bread, which is super easy to make.
And to prove just that, we asked Good Food Ireland for a soda bread recipe as simple as it is delicious.
Recipe for Brown Soda Bread by Tim O’Sullivan of Renvyle House, Galway
Ingredients (1 Loaf)
• 250g (10oz) wholemeal flour
• 220g (9oz) white flour
• 1 tsp salt
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 2 tsp baking powder
• 280ml buttermilk
• 1 beaten egg
Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375° F / Gas Mark 5
Sift together the flours, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Add the buttermilk and beaten egg to the mix.
Knead on a floured surface until smooth. Shape into a round and place on a baking tray. Make a cross shape on top of the cake and place in the oven for 35-40 minutes.
Serve slightly warm with real butter...delicious. Easy to make at home, but you can't beat real Irish soda bread. And there's only one place you'll get that.