March 30, 2010

Recipes by Request

So at our St. Pat's shindig this weekend, we had Irish Soda Bread. Well... not REAL Irish Soda Bread, because I added raisins, but it just tastes better with raisins, so they're in there.

 Not really my picture, but it came out JUST like this :-P

ALSO, I made some fabulous "Shamrock" sugar cookies. They were a little tough to work with since the butter content is so high, they got soft really fast, so I wouldn't work with them and little kids at the same time... but they are delicious. 

(Awful camera phone pic of what is left of the cookies day 4)

I was asked for the recipes for both of these, so...

Sugar Cookie Recipe:
This recipe is actually the "Rich Roll Cookie" from Joy of Cooking which my wonderful hubby got for me. I go to it CONSTANTLY for some of the best recipes and instructions on making all sorts of things. It's fabulous. If you use unsalted butter, add the 1/4 tsp salt (it makes it sweeter). If you use salted butter, just don't add any additional salt.

1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter (unsalted)
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/4 tsp baking powder
(1/4 tsp salt)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
(food coloring)

- Cream Butter and sugar
- add and beat until combined, egg, baking powder, (salt), vanilla, (& coloring)
- Stir in until blended, flour
- Divide the dough into thirds or quarters, shape into disks, and wrap in plastic, then refrigerate until firm. (I did an overnight, but I'm sure a few hours is sufficient)
When ready to roll your cookies, preheat your oven to 350*F for 20 minutes to make sure temps are even throughout.
- Roll the dough out to 1/4" thick, cut your shapes and arrange on a greased or lined cookie sheet 1" apart
- Reroll and cut scraps into shapes. You may need to re-chill the scraps.
- Bake until slightly colored on top and slightly darker on edges (10-12 minutes)
- Cool slightly on pan and move to a paper bag or a rack to fully cool. If the cookies stick to the pan, place it back in the oven for a few minutes until they warm up again, and then remove from pan.

Soda Bread Recipe:
I got this recipe from the internet somewhere, but it is super easy. The trick (because there is always a trick with "easy" recipes) is to get a pastry knife or pastry blender.

This is the one I have - from Bed Bath and Beyond.
or you can get a fancier one, that looks like this:

Either will work.
Use that to cut pads of butter into the flour mixture. And sifting is important. Not before you measure, but to make sure that the flour is ready to be cut into the butter... or vice versa :). I use a cast-iron pot to cook it in, but a regular cookie sheet or a stone would work too.

So the recipe...

4 to 4 1/2 cups flour (The variablity in flour is because some flour absorbs more fluid than others... as well as some eggs are larger, so to compensate, there is a flour range. Always start with the smallest amount, and add as-needed)
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp butter (1/2 stick)
1 cup raisins
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk (1 pint or 1/2 a quart)

- Sift together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a large mixing bowl.
- Using a pastry knife (or a pastry blender, or two knives, or just your fingers), work butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal.
- Stir in raisins well
- Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add beaten egg and buttermilk and mix with a wooden spoon until dough is too stiff to stir. Gently knead dough in the bowl just long enough to form a rough ball. If the dough is too sticky (makes a BIG mess on your floured hands), add more flour. Do not over knead! (AKA, no kneading just for the fun of it. Only knead to work in extra flour and to get into a ball).
- Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and shape into a round loaf.
- Transfer dough to a lightly greased cast-iron skillet (or baking pan, or stone) and score the top with an "X" about 1/2 inch deep.
- Place in oven to bake for 35-45 minutes, or until bread is golden brown, and a skewer comes out clean (or sounds hollow when tapped with a knife. I like the skewer method. Less interpretation)
- Cool bread on a rack briefly. Serve warm, at room temperature, or sliced and toasted.

Slices work best when cut across as opposed to in wedges... even though the bread is round :-P
Delicious with butter, marvelous toasted the next morning with some cream cheese, and pretty darned good turned into "french toast"

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