St. Patrick’s Day and Soda Bread

I do not celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the traditional way.  I do not go to a parade, I do not go to the local pub, and as much of a foodie as I am, I do not eat the food*, that is except Irish soda bread.  But I do look forward to the bread every year, carbnivore that I am (yes I made up that word).

I am by no means an expert on Irish soda bread.  I’m not Irish.  I didn’t grow up with soda bread.  I certainly don’t make it myself from a recipe handed down the generations.  So, I have had to rely on other bakers, commercial or otherwise for my soda bread experience.  While my experience has been limited to about once a year, around St. Patrick’s Day, the years have accumulated where I could say I have at least 10 solid years of experience.  Possibly more.

Again, by no means an expert, but I think I have a discerning taste and I have  developed my own idea of how a soda bread should taste.  I can’t adequately describe it.  It needs to be dense but not heavy, soft, but now chewy, almost dry and crumbly but not really dry, like a scone but not completely with a hint of sweetness that develops more fully as you chew the bread.  Whether that’s authentic or not, that is what I expect from an Irish soda bread.

So, while I have a decent source of the said bread, I decided to try something new this year, the local Breadsmith.  Not cheap by any means, but I wouldn’t have minded the price if the bread had been good.  But you know, it just wasn’t all that good.  It was too dense, too thick, too doughy and it didn’t have the right kind of sweetness.  All-in-all a real disappointment.  You may not have perceived this, but I am very particular about my food and how it tastes and I hate disappointing food.

Then yesterday, I thought my St. Paddy’s Day experienced was saved when one of my boss brought in a homemade bread.  But I could tell right away that it wasn’t meant to be.  One bite and I knew.  Don’t get me wrong, it was tasty.  I’m sure it was authentic.  They are actually Irish.  But it just wasn’t right.

Then I thought about my friend, Baker Mom.  Who I knew had made soda bread over the weekend.  And I thought about how I could without sounding too much like a beggar ask for a taste of hers.  And lo and behold, I get an email from her telling me that there is a bag for me at Soso’s school.  I didn’t ask what it was, but I had hope.  I had hoped.  Kind of uncanny, like she could read my thoughts!  Or perhaps she remembered the gleam in my eyes when she talked about her soda bread made from a recipe from a grandmother or a great-grandmother.

Finally, a happy ending.  It was perfect.  I sliced a nice thick slab for breakfast this morning.  I was going to enjoy it with with coffee, but alas, there was a meeting going on and I just couldn’t wait.  Well, I could have except that I took a small bite and then took another and then another and then what was the point in saving a small piece?

*Not that there is anything wrong with corn beef and cabbage.  I actually enjoy eating a well cooked one.  It’s just that St. Patrick’s Day always falls during Lent and I do not eat meat during Lent.

**I just had another slice, toasted, and wow, even better!


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