My dad loves to make bread. It has become a pretty serious passion of his: several loaves a week, experimentation with different types of flours and grains, the addition of nuts, candied ginger, onion, raisins, spices. I’ve got a long way to go before my bread turns out as beautifully as his, but I think I’ve discovered why it’s such an obsession for him. The best loaf you’ve ever made might just be the next one, and so the relentless pursuit of perfection begins.
When I was young, and before it became an obsession of my father’s, bread making in our house happened on Saturday mornings. My dad is an early riser, and he would set to work in the kitchen making sure the smell of warm dough would await when we woke up. I think of it now as such a simple, loving gesture; a way that my father liked to nurture our family.
One of the first bread recipes I remember my Dad making was Irish Soda Bread. It’s my mom’s favourite. It’s actually more of a gigantic scone than a bread, but no matter what shape it’s moulded in, it’s delicious when hot, slathered with butter, and served with milky tea.
I’ve developed a recent interest in tea parties. It’s a result of a few things: the fact that getting friends together in the evening for a meal is challenging with a one year old who has an early bedtime, my love of fancy loose leaf teas and my compulsion to share them, and my inheritance of a beautiful set of china, including dainty teacups, from my folks. I decided to make Irish Soda Bread, but in scone form, for some friends who were coming over for tea. Though these caraway-studded gems are great with a layer of butter, they’re outstanding with some clotted cream and fresh strawberry or blueberry jam.
Here’s what you need:
2 cups all-purpose white flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar
6 tbsp. chilled butter or shortening
1/2-1 cup raisins
1 tbsp. caraway
2/3-3/4 cup milk
Here’s what you do:
Preheat your oven to 350F. Whisk together the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter/shortening, and then stir in the raisins (amount depending on what looks good to you) and caraway seeds. Add just enough milk to form a cohesive dough and turn out onto a greased baking sheet (I usually make a round dome-like loaf, but scones work too). Brush the top of the loaf/scones with milk and bake 40-50 minutes or until golden brown.
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