By Cal Orey When I was in my twenties, one summer I purchased a paperback book on traveling to Europe (like my mom did in her thirties). It was my dream to visit Ireland, a place famous for its authors. I dog-eared pages about Dublin and Belfast. I could taste fish and chips, and see the lush green countryside. I’d sing out to friends and family, “I’m going to Ireland. I can do it for five bucks a day with hostels, hiking and a backpack.” The result: I ended up staying home with my fur kids, human mate, and finished graduate school. While I never got to Ireland or the UK, earthy Irish cuisine will always be with me – even at Lake Tahoe.
As an adult, I still acknowledge St. Patrick’s Day, but my choice of Irish foods are a bit different from my mom’s dishes. This year, I turned to an Irish soda bread made with flour, baking soda, and buttermilk. It is ideal paired with a cup of Irish breakfast tea.
Irish Soda Bread with Blueberries
21⁄4 cups all purpose flour or cake flour
1 cup buttermilk
3⁄4 cup light brown sugar
2 brown eggs
1⁄4 cup European-style butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup blueberries, dried, currents or raisins
1 teaspoon cinnamon
In a medium-sized bowl, combine dry ingredients. Then, add mixture of eggs, butter milk and blueberries. Mix well. Pour batter into a 9″ by 5″ bread pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 to 60 minutes. Cool. Dust top with flour or confectioners’ sugar to give it that fresh sierra snow flair. Garnish with fresh green mint and leftover blueberries. Serves 12.
The luck of the Irish wasn’t on my side and this recipe called for a redo. The first version sunk in the middle like the Titanic. So, I zapped the orange juice, added more flour and baking powder and less blueberries. I blamed the collapsed bread on the high altitude. The second time around, I covered the bread with foil to allow it to bake evenly. It worked like a lucky charm. This quick bread (without yeast or kneading), is not a super moist cake, so topping it with orange-blossom honey or a pat of real butter can give it a superb texture. So, here I sit in my Sierra cabin, amid green pine trees and enjoying a warm slice of Irish soda bread and cup of Irish breakfast tea. Cheers. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!