Wednesday, November 24, 2010

An odd Thanksgiving Tradition

Last year, I got it in my head to start baking bread. I've made bagels before, so I wasn't completely inexperienced with yeast doughs. Still, it had been a while, so I thought I would start with a soda bread. I'm only a wee bit Irish (a great-grandmother I never met was half-Irish. Touch of English, too, which explains why I have a taste for good whisky and make tea when there's a crisis)

There are a lot of Irish soda breads out there. Which is like saying New York City has a couple Irish bars, but anyway. Some recipes add flavor with caraway, some with raisins, some with oatmeal. I came across one set of base ingredients I liked, then another recipe mentioned using herbs instead of caraway and raisins, and I thought the buttery flavors in the bread would go well with herbs, so I ended up with the following:

3 Cups all-purpose flour
1/4 Cup sugar
1 T baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
4 T unsalted butter (half a stick)
1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs (I've made this with rosemary and thyme so far, the thyme wasn't as successful. This year I'm trying chives)
1 Cup buttermilk
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

-Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well
-Add the butter and blend in until it disappears into the dry ingredients--if you can get it the size of large pebbles, you're in good shape
-Stir in the herbs and blend well
-in a separate small bowl, whisk the egg and buttermilk together
-add liquid to dry ingredients, folding in with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. If it still remains dry, add another tablespoon of buttermilk
-lightly flour a work surface and turn dough onto it.
-fold dough over itself a few times and shape it into a loaf. I've done both oval and round; either works fine
-cut a cross in the center (without fail, all the recipes I've read say this is to let the fairies out. Who am I to argue?)
-bake in center of the oven for fifteen minutes
-turn heat down to 350 F and back for another fifteen to twenty-five minutes, checking for doneness with a toothpick in the center. Crust should be deep golden brown and toothpick in the center should come out clean.
-cool on a rack for as long as you can stand it.
-serve with butter as desired.

This went over so well last Thanksgiving, that my uncle asked me to make it again. So maybe later in the holiday season I'll try something yeasty. When I lived in Salt Lake City a friend used to make Parker House rolls every Thanksgiving, and they were delicious. They also were the perfect size for a small turkey sandwich the following day.

What are your Thanksgiving traditions?

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