Tag Archives: Irish soda bread

SANTA FE-STYLE SODA BREAD

For most people, the Spanish word “mañana” means “morning” or “tomorrow”. But around here, we know the real meaning: “not today”. So here it is, several days late, my effort at a Southwestern version of Irish soda bread. This way I don’t have to make apologies for missing Saint Patrick’s Day.

There are several differences between this recipe and classic Irish soda bread:

First, the predominant flour is whole wheat. There are some soda bread recipes that use whole whet flour, but our family recipe calls for all-purpose flour.

Second, blue corn meal has been substituted for some of the whole wheat flour. These days you should be able to buy it locally. Bob’s Red Mill has unusual flours in most grocery stores, but a local mill, Talon de Gato Farm, takes email orders.

Third, I have added gluten. Corn meal has no gluten, so the additional gluten gives some extra lift in the oven; but if you are leery of gluten, you can certainly omit it. Still, the loaf will not be gluten-free because of the other flours.

Fourth, there is a little bit of baking powder; again to give some extra rising power. Most “authentic” recipes use only baking soda and buttermilk for leavening.

Finally, I have added green chiles and a good melting cheese. I used 4 ounces of canned chopped mild chiles, but you may want more and hotter. Swiss, Cheddar, Monterey jack, and asadero are all good cheese choices. Again, you can add more if you like.

RECIPE

Santa Fe-Style Soda Bread

Ingredients

  • 3 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup blue corn meal (yellow or white will work if you can’t find blue)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon powdered gluten
  • 4 ounces canned, chopped green chiles, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup grated cheese (Swiss, Cheddar, Monterey jack, or asadero)
  • 2 cups buttermilk

Method

  1. In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients: whole-wheat flour, corn meal, all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and gluten.
  2. Stir in the green chiles and grated cheese. Then stir in the buttermilk and mix until well-combined and the dough has begun to come together.
  3. Turn the dough out on a well-floured work surface. Knead for only a minute or two to bring everything together. If the dough is a little sticky, sprinkle sparingly with more flour and fold in.
  4. Shape the dough into a round and place it in a heavily buttered 8-inch cake pan. With a sharp knife, cut a ½-inch deep X in the top of the loaf.
  5. Bake in the middle of an oven preheated to 375°F for 40 to 45 minutes or until it is lightly browned and sounds like a drum when thumped on the bottom with a knuckle.
  6. Remove from the pan and transfer to a cooling rack to completely cool.
  7. Wrap loosely in a barely damp clean kitchen towel for 6 hours. This will help the loaf to firm up so that it can be cut more easily.
  8. For serving, cut very thin slices and serve with soft butter. Jam or other toppings your option.

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ALCATRAZ AND AI WEI WEI

I had meant to post something on Saint Patrick’s Day – for certain NOT corned beef and cabbage, but maybe something about Irish soda bread. But we were traveling back from San Francisco, and then my friend and fellow blogger, Jim Hastings, the Gringo Gourmet, wrote about his mother’s recipe for soda bread.  I still haven’t given up on a southwestern version of soda bread, but I’ve been so busy since we got home that I haven’t had time to cook, and anyway I am once again on a diet. Susan assures me that the reason I can’t lose any weight is that I wind up eating whatever it is that I’ve cooked for my blog postings.

So, needing something to write about, I thought of our trip the other day to Alcatraz. I couldn’t think of any prison food to go with the text, especially anything that would interest folks who like to read about food. That’s the reason that this is just a travelogue.

If you have never been to Alcatraz during a visit to San Francisco, it is something that you should do. Be advised that same-day tickets are usually impossible to get, so you should make reservations ahead. The ferry leaves Pier 33 about every half hour during the day, and  takes about 15 minutes. You should plan at least 2 hours on “the Rock” before you catch the return boat. You may also be able to plan your trip around a meal at the nearby Fog City Diner.

A special feature right now  through part of April is an exhibit of the work of Ai Wei Wei, the dissident Chinese artist who has spent much of his life in a Chinese prisons. It seems appropriate that Alcatraz is the site of the exhibit.

A centerpiece of the exhibition is a massive Chinese dragon that stretches surely over a hundred feet in one of the main exhibit halls – part of the old Laundry Building. Another of the key displays includes portraits of political prisoners from throughout the world. The portraits are arranged across the floor reminiscent of the AIDS quilt. The most amazing thing about the portraits is that they are all made of Legos carefully pieced together but with remarkable detail.

Alcatraz is pretty much a ruin. It was a military prison for many decades before it became the federal high-security prison. Then it was abandoned on  March 21, 1963. 1963. It was briefly occupied in 1964 by a small group of Sioux Indians. Then, from 1969 to 1971 it was occupied by a group known as Indians of All Tribes. Subsequently it has just sat, crumbling into ruins. Now the place is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and many of the buildings are being restored. Still, the ruins are very interesting and also very photogenic. One could easily spend many hours with a camera.

At the very top of the hill sits the main cell block. The cells remain intact, and there are a few furnished to show the not-so-luxurious accommodations.  One stop on the tour is the dining hall along with the accompanying kitchen. The breakfast menu for the closing day is still posted on the wall. It includes choice of cereal, juice, coffee, fruit, eggs, and breakfast meat. Sounds ok, but my guess is that it was slung out of the kitchen where outlines of the terrifying knives used by the cooks still cover the walls.

It is not for nothing that Alcatraz is nicknamed “the Rock”. That’s all that it was until soil was brought in to  make it a more pleasant place to live for the families of the guards and other prison employees. Now there are lots of flowers around the grounds, but they are all invasive species, and there are no native plants.

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