It's been a long, long winter...so when it started snowing again earlier this week I wasn't surprised. When the days feel endlessly cold, there's nothing like a good bowl of stew, and what goes better with stew than fresh, warm bread?
Now, I have to admit that the stew didn't turn out quite the way my tastebuds had imagined...Usually Trevor is in charge of stew in our house and he likes to make it with Alley Kat's Coffehouse Porter. We've both decided it's the best beer for stew; it gives it a great flavour. Unfortunately we didn't have any in the house, but we did have some bottles of dark chocolate beer (that neither of us liked), so I used that instead. Lesson learned - if you don't like the beer on it's own, it's not going to be any better in your cooking. So anyhow, the stew was pretty good, just not perfect. While the stew was simmering away on the stove, I whipped up this loaf to go with it. It actually came together pretty quickly, and with minimal dishes (which is good for me).
Irish Soda Bread
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 3 tbsp cold butter, cut into pieces
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 cup oat bran**
- 1/3 cup wheat germ**
- 1 tbsp caraway seeds**
- 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats**
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- about 1 3/4 cups buttermilk
** These ingredients are somewhat flexible. You can play around with the proportions, and even what you add into the mix. Some other ideas are flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, quick oats, poppy seeds...whatever you've got in the pantry, although I think the bran and wheat germ give it great flavor. Also, if you don't like caraway seeds you can easily omit them.
Preheat the oven to 425F and put the rack in the center. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper or cooking spray.
In a large bowl, stir the all-purpose flour with the whole wheat flour. Add the butter and work it into the flours until it is a fine, crumbly consistency. Mix in the baking soda, salt, sugar, oat bran, wheat germ, caraway seeds and rolled oats.
Lightly beat the egg in a measuring cup, then add buttermilk to make two cups total. Stir the liquids into the dry ingredients and mix until it comes together into a wet-looking dough. Move the dough onto the prepared cookie sheet and form into a round loaf, about 2 inches thick. Make a cross-shaped indentation on the top (to allow the loaf to easily be pulled into quarters).
Bake the loaf for about 40 minutes, until it is well browned. The bread will have a crunchy, firm crust but a moist interior. It's delicious eaten hot out of the oven (just try and resist it), but it also keeps well if wrapped up in plastic wrap for a few days. It tastes great with stew and just as good with honey or jam for breakfast or a snack.