My mom says she used to bake all her own bread as a young housewife. This was before KitchenAid mixers with dough hooks, and also before I was old enough to eat any of it, so I can’t be sure. By the time I grew teeth, she had moved on to store-bought bread, albeit whole wheat and without preservatives. I do recall being asked what I wanted for my birthday – in high school – and I requested the mystical, foreign substance known as Wonder Bread.
This early bread-baking habit of hers was always something I lumped in with drinking chamomile tea and not letting me wear toy makeup as a four-year-old. I always thought it was because she was a crazy hippie nut job.
While my mother’s reputation remains secure, I have realized you don’t have to live in 1970’s San Francisco, man, to make food from scratch. Or, to want to. I have begun to make my own bread. Because it is approximately 4,000,000 times better for our bodies than anything from a store. And because it’s staggeringly easy.
If you have a very simple (and foolproof) recipe like this one, and a half a day to hang around the house – but not necessarily in the kitchen – you can make bread. Make two loaves at a time. Give one away. Freeze one. There is really no need to pay money for GMO wheat accompanied by a vial of “dough conditioner,” or a beaker of “chlorine,” or a test tube of “sodium stearoyl lactylate” ever again.
This recipe is, admittedly, not authentically Irish. I am given to understand that no true Irish Soda Bread contains currants or, heaven forbid, orange zest. Delicious trumps all here, however, because with this recipe, the Secret to the Scrumptious IS the orange zest. Use exactly what is called for. It’s a perfect background note.
If you’re thumbing your nose at the Authenticity Police, you could even swap raisins for currants – it was just as fantastic with raisins. It’s what I had on hand and Easy trumps everything.
The Barefoot Contessa says you can cut the sugar to 2-3 tablespoons (instead of 4). I cut it to 2 because, sugar. I think the flavor was ideal but the texture may have been even lighter with an extra tablespoon of sugar. I suggest trying 2-3. And let me know how it goes. In fact, send me a piece! (Just to be sure.)
Slather with Kerrygold butter and indulge. Perfect with a cup of chamomile tea, I’d guess.
I’ve incorporated more baking into our week because I think it’s much more fun for the boys to learn math and science by actually using it. Plus, you get to eat your homework. Add in a social studies lesson on Ireland and you’ve got extra credit! Who knew simple home cooking could be so deep.