This week we're up to #38 on Gourmet's list of the 50 Women Game Changers in the world of food: Darina Allen--- an award winning Irish author, television personality, chef and teacher, Allen founded the renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork. Thanks to Mary from One Perfect Bite for organizing a group of us cooking and blogging our way through this list, one dish at a time. Check back every Friday for another story and recipe from the list, and e-mail Mary if you'd like to join the group.
When an Irish chef marries an Irish farmer, the result is a deep appreciation for the world of food from the ground up. In fact the Ballymaloe cooking school is situated on a 100 acre working farm, and is dedicated to the principal that cooking and farming are intimately related. The philosophy of the school is simple: the finest cooking depends on the finest ingredients, and that means local, seasonal, organic, and sustainably grown ingredients. This is truly the mantra of our culinary generation.
Allen has championed the Slow Food Movement in Ireland, and introduced the concept of Farmer's Markets to struggling farmers, giving them a valuable tool for survival.
Allen focuses on celebrating local and traditional Irish cuisine, very much in the same way that Edna Lewis set out to revive traditional southern American food. Her book Forgotten Skills of Cooking highlights the lost arts of making butter and yogurt, curing meats and raising hens, among other things. The book was conceived when Allen happened to see one of the students throwing away cream that had been whipped too long, instead of simply making it into butter. It occurred to her that generations of cooks had lost touch with the most basic of cooking knowledge and skills in this era of maga grocery stores and pre-packaged food. Today's soda bread and homemade butter pay homage to that spirit...what could be more elemental than making your own brown bread and butter to feed yourself and your family. Allen says that her 83 year old mother makes this bread every day.
I think one of the charms of these recipes is how quick and easy they are. You don't need to do any advance planning or prep work to have hot bread and fresh butter on the table for dinner. This soda bread is really close to being a biscuit or a scone; the only difference is that it doesn't have the rich butter content. Think of it as a more healthy alternative to a biscuit... either that or a really good excuse to slather on lots of butter to make up the difference!
This bread is as easy as weighing your flour, whisking in the soda and salt, and pouring in the buttermilk.
You don't even really knead it, more like push it around on a floured counter just till it just holds together.
Slash a big X across the top and you're ready to go.
My previous experience with soda bread was not good. I last made it years and years ago, probably with white flour, and it was unimpressive, so I never touched it again. But I think here the whole wheat flour makes a difference. As does really good butter. This is not fancy or highly flavored bread, it's a basic food for hungry people. If you make it right before dinner and serve it hot out of the oven, it's wonderful.
Brown Soda Bread ~~~Darina Allen
oven to 450
2 cups all-purpose flour (about 9 ounces)
2 cups whole wheat flour (about 9 1/2 ounces) (I used 18 1/2 oz of white whole wheat flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
(I snuck in a Tbsp of brown sugar)
2 cups buttermilk
- Weigh out your flour or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture. Add buttermilk to flour mixture; stir until blended (dough will be sticky). Turn dough out onto a generously floured surface; knead lightly 4 to 5 times.
- Shape dough into an 8-inch round loaf; place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Cut a 1/4-inch-deep X in the top of the dough.
- Bake at 450° for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 400° (do not remove bread from oven); bake 15 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.
Put 2 cups of heavy cream in a bowl and beat it as you would for whipped cream. Only keep beating. As you go, you will reach the regular whipped cream stage, then it will go beyond that into a kind of overly thick stage, and finally into a seperated state of curds and whey. Add a sprinkling of salt at this time.
Drain the butter in a cheesecloth lined strainer for a few minutes, and then pick up the cheesecloth and squeeze out as much liquid as you can from the butter. That leftover liquid is buttermilk, save it to make scones!
Transfer the butter into a container, smooth it down, and store.
Check out these other bloggers who are exploring Gourmet's 50 Women Game Changers along with me---
Val - More Than Burnt Toast
Joanne - Eats Well With Others
Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed
Susan - The Spice Garden
Heather - girlichef
Miranda of Mangoes and Chutney
Mary - One Perfect Bite
Barbara - Movable Feasts
Jeanette - Healthy Living
Linda - Ciao Chow Linda
Linda A - There and Back Again
Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits,
Veronica - My Catholic Kitchen
Annie - Lovely Things
Nancy - Picadillo
Claudia - Journey of an Italian Cook
Kathy- Bake Away With Me
Alyce - More Time at the Table
Amrita - Beetles Kitchen Escapades