Two resolutions intersect nicely in this post. (I enjoy the economy of a such a thing! ) Desiring both to incorporate more whole grains in our diet AND bake more bread, I’d like to share a couple of truly simple and delicious recipes that are done on the fly—in terms of bread-time. Neither requires extensive pre-planning.
One is Brown Irish Soda Bread, here just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day. Whole wheat and rye flours are mixed in with unbleached white, which gives added dimension of flavor to Ireland’s national dish, without added heaviness. A handful of currants are just right for a little pop of sweet, pleasant background interest.
From start to finish, this baking project takes under an hour, and rewards your efforts with two pretty loaves.
Maggie and I baked this together in her kitchen, and used her buttermilk. What a good find! Organically produced, it was not reduced in fat; its rich, luxurious pour contributed to the bread’s supple texture and subtle tang. If you can find whole buttermilk, I recommend it.
Rather than make one large loaf, we divided the dough into two rounds. We brushed a little melted butter over the top and sprinkled some currants before placing in the oven to bake. And then, we waited—-but not long. Just enough time to brew up a small pot of coffee…..
Who knew that so few ingredients could make something so good?
The other is Focaccia, such an easy yeasted, flatbread! With minimal kneading, it only has to rise once!
Again, combining a variety flours, I baked this one with a topping of frizzled leeks, olive oil, and flakes of crystally Maldon Salt.
If you don’t have leeks, use uncooked chopped green onion, which I like almost as much. It reminds me of focaccia used for grilled sandwiches in a little corner cafe in North Beach, San Francisco:
Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store Cafe.
I discovered Mario’s Bohemian over fifteen years ago, a charming, odd angled neighborhood bar with a minimal menu—terrific sandwiches made with a green onion-flecked focaccia that was freshly baked in the ‘hood, and brought in daily. (I loved the sandwich with grilled eggplant.)
Even though it’s kinda touristy now, it’s so small and still retains its community sense of place. You can get a great cuppa Graffeo coffee there too….beans roasted just up the street.
Of course, the bread is delicious by itself, or as an accompaniment to a bowl of soup. But you might want to try it as a grilled sandwich, in the Mario’s Bohemian manner. Yesterday, Bill had his with this bowl of tomato-vegetable; I had mine open-faced, with a slice of roast beef topped with horseradish cream sauce and greens. We were both very happy.
Frizzled Leek Foccacia
3 Cups Flour: 1 ¼ c. Unbleached All Purpose
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
¾ c. Rye Flour
1 pkg. Active Dry Yeast
1 cup tepid Water
3 T. Olive Oil
1 T. Honey
1 T. Red Wine (opt.)
1 t. Salt
1 Leek, sliced thinly, sauteed briefly in olive oil and salt
Sea Salt, Maldon Salt
Stir water and yeast together in a bowl. Add olive oil, honey, salt, wine. Stir in flours until all is incorporated, forms a sticky ball. I added a little wine and honey to this, to give the yeast a little something more to eat. It seemed to enjoy it, and got well activated.
Gently knead for a few minutes to help release glutens.
Cover and allow to rise at least 45 minutes.
Turn out onto oiled baking sheet pan, and gently press out to all sides. Spread leeks over the top, dust with salt flakes, drizzle with a little olive oil. Cover again while you wait for the oven to heat: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until top and bottom of flatbread is brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Brown Irish Soda Bread with Currants
1 ½ cup Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1 ½ cup Whole Wheat Flour
¾ cup Rye Flour
1 t. Baking Soda
1 t. Salt
1 T. Brown Sugar
½ -1 cup dried Currants
2 cups Buttermilk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl. Make a well and pour in buttermilk and currants. Begin working the liquid throughout the flour, dough will be a little wet and sticky, scone-like. Turnout onto work surface and lightly knead. If it’s too wet, add a little flour. Divide and form into 2 balls.
With a sharp knife, score an X across the top, bringing the knife to the edges. This will help the bread rise evenly. Place onto a buttered baking sheet pan and place into the oven.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until done. The rounds of bread will have a hollow sound when thumped.
Slice and serve warm with a slap of butter on it, and enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea. To the Luck of the Irish!