The Lahey Project: Irish Brown Bread (and the Giveaway Winner!)

This morning, I assigned numbers to all of the commenters who desired to win the Blazing Hot Candied Jalapenos, and according to the Random Number Generator, the lucky winner was Neil F.! I met Neil at a dinner a few weeks ago at La Merenda in support of the Eat Local Milwaukee restaurant challenge. He is also an intern at Wellspring Farms, and blogs about his experiences at stream of consciousness, so hop over and check it out!

This giveaway had 18 entrants, which is vastly more than my first giveaway, and I'm very excited to see if these peppers are hot enough for Neil! I'm going to to prematurely say: yes they are!, after sampling the first of my newly canned batch last night.

I must confess that I'm really not a party girl. I enjoy get-togethers, but not feeling awkward and stranger-in-a-strange-landish. I don't attend many parties, preferring to have just one or two people over for dinner now and then. That works pretty well for me, and for my house which is on the smallish side.

I also have never thrown myself a party, which I kind of did last night, when I invited 8 friends to my house for a "Small Ferments Get-Together". We enjoyed an evening of sampling different kitchen experiments: Mr. Mork's Toungesplitter Ale (renamed The Bernadette Peters), Kir and "fermented" chocolate covered cherries (and kombucha) from Peef and Lo at Burp!, and of course an array of lacto-fermented veg and bread. (A particular highlight is that my Husband actually tried Kombucha for the first time! I was shocked! And, he didn't even hate it!)

I used the excuse of company to knock out another of my Lahey Project breads: the Irish Brown Bread. The recipe is actually exactly the same as the Pane Integral bread, but instead of including water, the liquids are Guinness and buttermilk (in my case, homemade whole milk buttermilk). The result was a tangy bread with a tighter crumb than the other breads in his book, and a peculiar rye flavor even though there was not even a trace of rye flour in it.

I must admit, it wasn't my favorite of the Lahey breads I've tried so far, but Peef was on to something when he suggested a grilled sandwich made with some kind of ruben-ish ingredients! I have only 1 piece of that bread left, so I may need an excuse to make it again to try that. I also think it is largely a matter of personal preference, since a few of my guests really loved it.

I feel like I stand on the cusp of bread season. All summer, I make bread here and there, but seldom get hungry for it until the coolness of September and October hit. Nearly two weeks ago, I embarked on a new bread project, a sourdough grown from wild yeast as suggested by Nancy Silverton. If all goes as planned, I should be able to knock out the first of the loaves of Wisconsin Sourdough on Monday - and a more detailed post will certainly follow.

No matter what, Lahey bread is still near and dear to me - a perfectly wonderful addition to any dinner or party, and a fairly labor-free endeavor as well. My rule of thumb is to mix up the dough(s) 24 hours before I plan to bake. I haven't had any trouble with that method yet, but still feel like I have volumes to learn about fermentation as it pertains to bread.

Stay tuned, since Nancy Silverton is probably the best guide on the subject for an obsessive type such as myself!

Better to be a Live, Cold Potato...

There are two things I always think of on St. Patrick's Day: first, that everyone can be Irish for that single day of the year, and second that "It's better to be a live, cold potato than a dead hot tomato". I don't know why this quote sticks out, but it does... and the funny thing is that I don't even really know who said that (until in this miraculous age of Googling I found that it was probably Studs Terkel...). I assume that it stuck with me all of these years due to its absolute truth, and that it offered me some comfort since in my own eyes at least, I'm not really that hot a tomato. As I stood over my sink this evening, doing an intentionally poor job of peeling some red skinned potatoes for dinner, it was all I could think of.

Unlike this morning, when glorious bread was on my brain. This is also the one day of the year when anyone can turn out a halfway decent loaf of soda bread, usually in minimal time and with minimal effort. Since it is a quick bread, those phobic of yeast bakery in the home can easily produce the soda bread of their dreams. The soda bread of my dreams is the recipe that we used at Gina's Pies Are Square, for serving on our busiest day of the year. I think it was from a Martha Stewart magazine, and the year I first made it for myself I had to call GOP and get the ingredients list, since when I just now quick searched the Martha Stewart website, 2022 results popped up for soda bread. This in itself is saying something. Soda bread has been done and redone, sweetened to the point of cake-dom or reduced to full whole wheat hockey pucks. But this one is the one for me.

My preferred recipe is probably not one for the record books. It's dry and crumbly and a pain to work with. The liquid is always too little, and I always end up adding more and hoping that I'm not overworking the dough. It is butter-less and dense, yet tender and tangy from buttermilk, and though boasting a fair amount of plain white flour, has a trace of whole wheat and oat bran. It was particularly difficult to mix up today, and I wet my hands down and forced it into domelike submission - a trick I learned from making biscotti.

This recipe is one of thousands you can find, but is my favorite. I feel some strange loyalty to it, and even though this one from Ina Garten was calling my name, I just could not bring myself to make it. Mine is dry and earthy, and needs something to sop up desperately. Perfect, in my book.

Irish Soda Bread - originally from Martha Stewart Magazine
makes one loaf (but I usually make two smaller loaves and give one to my In-Laws)
  • 3 c. AP flour
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c. coarse oat bran
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 2/3 c. buttermilk (you will likely need more)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Combine the dry ingredients, then add the buttermilk and form into a dome-like disk. You may need to add additional liquid, and possibly wet your hands down to get it to stay somewhat together. Cut a cross into the top of the loaf, about 3/4 inch deep, and bake for 45-60 minutes (35-45 for two smaller loaves), until the loaf is lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean.

Ordinarily, I angelically wait for bread to cool before diving in for the first taste. Soda bread is different to me, and I let it cool just enough so that I won't burn myself slicing away at it. I love this bread, and only make it one time a year. I don't know why! It could be that it isn't really a good keeper. Two days at best, and you'll dump any remaining leftovers I'd wager. But for the one day of the year when I get to be Irish by association, I usually clobber it to the point of very little waste.

Non-Irish Swiss cheese and Spicy Guinness Mustard lunch.

I started another batch of Spicy Guinness Mustard this afternoon, and poured the rest of the bottle into a beef stew I was slow cooking. It was intentional, since I saw this recipe recently from innBrooklyn, and thought that it would be a perfect thing for today. I was going to follow her recipe, but then didn't so much, but luckily it was fantastic anyway. I used a beef rump roast from my frozen bevy, and the aforementioned Guinness, and part of another one I saved from Monday's Oatmeal Guinness Stout Pie. I didn't add any stock, since I didn't have any, and because when I tasted the liquid after it braised in the crock pot for 5 or 6 hours, I was amazed at the complexity of the flavor. That beef is so "beefy" that it hardly needs anything to help it along. I ended up salting and peppering it well, but to my base of beef and onion, only added a few tablespoons of tomato paste, a jigger of Worcestershire sauce, and a polite splash of red wine vinegar to liven it up (and towards the end thickened it a bit with tapioca flour). I am very grateful for the leftovers, and to innBrooklyn for planting the idea in my head...

Roasted cabbage and red potatoes, to go with the stew.

When we sat down to eat, I realized that I cooked that meat for close to 12 hours in the crock pot. It fell apart and was perfect. I was actually very full after this meal. I don't often cook such heavy food, and the funny thing is that it is usually such simple food that fills you up. Irish food really is simple comfort food, and the joy of it comes from the ease of preparation and the lack of odd ingredients.

I doubt the poor farmers that popularized these dishes would have any idea the impact they would have on a girl without an ounce of Irish heritage. I'm surprised myself of how inexplicably drawn to soda bread I am, even if this live, cold potato only makes it once a year. I may have to break that habit and give a few more recipes a try.

Guinness Oatmeal Stout Pie, and In Which I Become Even More Addicted to Fudge Babies

Late yesterday, I checked the Facebook to find out that my friend Gina, the Goddess of Pie, has sold her cafe, Gina's Pies are Square. I knew it was for sale, and I knew she wanted to venture in other directions, but this floored me. Like I somehow thought all was right in the world if the pie shop was just the way I remember it, and my one-time apartment above was there just in case I ever needed it. Not that I'm thinking I'd need to escape my current life, but the time I spent in that 500 person town was a good time. I knew everyone, everyone knew me. I only had to drive to visit my Parents or to get to church, and could walk everywhere else that needed getting to.

My apartment smelled of pie, and the outside brick wall was emblazoned with a Gold Medal Flour sign. Idyllic? Kinda. I learned how to make jewelry by taking on a second job, I learned how to co-exist on a basic level when people know your business all of the time. I remembered what it was like not to have curtains on the windows. And if I saw you coming in the front door, I'd probably already have the coffee cup (or beer bottle) at the ready for you.

Of course, this news right before retiring for the day led me to dreaming of pie... and what better pie for Pi Day (3.14) and St. Patrick's Day than Gina's Guinness Oatmeal Stout. I'd considered making it for awhile, but knew that I'd be eating a whole pie, so didn't really know if I would be making it for sure. After reading Deena's similarly mathematical post on Coupled Pair (Pear) Pie and hearing of the changes going on at the Square Pie, I knew that in my own way, I'd make a pie as tribute today.

The good news is that if you have the Guinness, you can probably do it without leaving to pick up ingredients if your baking pantry is the slightest bit stocked.

The pie recipe is one we made at the Square Pie, courtesy of the GOP.  I hope I can still call her the Goddess of Pie, since the thought of her relinquishing that crown is truly a sorry one. The crust recipe however, is from Dorie Greenspan's Baking Book. I can not believe I never made it before, because I think it is the nicest crust I've ever made. I mix it up mess free in a plastic bag as Alton Brown suggests.

Guinness Oatmeal Stout Pie
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 T. flour
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 2/3 c. molasses
  • 3/4 c. rolled oats
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. butter, melted
  • 1/2 c. chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c. Guinness
Whisk all ingredients except beer until well combined, then add beer. Mixture will foam up nicely. Pour into pie shell and bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Pie should be set and not "sloshy", but will set up a bit more as it cools... kind of like pecan pie filling. Let it cool to room temperature before digging in.

Dorie Greenspan's Pie Crust (one 9 inch pie)
  • 1 1/2 c. AP flour
  • 2 T. sugar
  • 3/4 t. salt
  • 10 T. very cold (or frozen) butter
  • 2 1/2 T. very cold (or frozen) shortening (I use Spectrum Organic)
  • about 1/4 c. ice water
Put the flour, sugar and salt in the food pro and pulse to combine. Add butter and shortening and pulse several times until mixture is like "coarse meal" and has several "fat pea" sized butter pieces floating around. Add about half the water, and continue pulsing, adding enough water and increasing duration of the pulsing a little to get the water into the flour. When the dough comes together when pinched, you have succeeded. Dump the food pro contents into a plastic bag and form into a disk. Refrigerate for 1 hour (and up to 2 days) before rolling out.

guinness pie unbaked

As if this Guinness Pie isn't enough to make your knees buckle, I rolled out the extra pie dough that I clipped off the crust, and figured that if these Chocolate Covered Katie Fudge Babies that I am hopelessly addicted to are good on their own, perhaps they would be even better wrapped up in flaky dough. All I am going to say is that it's a good thing I only had enough dough to make three of these (newly dubbed) Pastry Enhanced Fudge Babies.

I used a 2 5/8 inch ring to cut them out, but next time could go a bit larger. I also had to tear off (and eat, of course) about 1/3 of the Fudge Baby as pictured above, so that I could crimp the sides of the dough up around it. I brushed the edges with beaten egg, but since I only had a few, used the same beaten eggs in the Guinness Pie recipe. Nothing was wasted in my adventures, today.

It's not raw or vegan anymore, but I've got to think that CCK would be impressed that her Fudge Babies could be even more addicting!

I made a double batch of the original recipe yesterday, and used the gram measurements. I decided to sprinkle them with a bit of coconut to keep them from sticking to each other, but found they were in better proportion than when I used cup measurements. Katie also has all kinds of links to amazing looking Baby Variations. If I can get out of the original rut, I have to try some others. They are guilt-free, and beyond simple to make, and now that I know I can use up leftover pie crust with them, I may just have to make pie more often...

Good luck to GOP and her new endeavors, and farewell to the Square Pie of my past. I hope your new owners take good care of you.