irish soda bread with dried cherries
Good morning world. Today while I was making my ritual cup of pour over coffee, I looked out the kitchen window and noticed a man dancing. He was two houses behind ours, two backyards away. Our backyards are stitched together, with a wooden fence between, if that makes sense. He brought a smile to my face. His dancing. And we aren’t talking a little bob and sway. He was getting right down. And forty-five minutes later he’s still at it. His coat is now off. Awesome.
I’d say he’s in his twenties or thirties. Appears to be quite fit (um, dancing will do that), and to be honest, it’s hard to take my eyes off him. He appears to be so full of life. Joyful, even. I wonder to myself if he’s worshiping, or if he’s getting in his morning exercise, or both. I wonder if he has children. I wonder if he’s the same guy I saw on that same stoop, smoking a cigarette the other night. I wonder about these great people in my town. But whoever he is and whyever he’s dancing, he’s made me think of joy this day.
Oddly, as i was making my coffee I was already pondering joy, and my need for it. Before I even noticed him on his far off stoop. It was destiny that this man danced before me. (Don’t worry, all parties in this story are fully clothed). But all I’m saying is sometimes it’s hard to show joy, to see joy in ourselves and others, and more so, to be joyful. Especially in the monotony of life. In doing the dishes, pairing socks, making bread, but I’d like to believe it’s still there. Even when all my limbs are still and not a bead of sweat is on my brow, I reckon joy can still be present.
Wow, that dancing man got me deep this morning. (He’s still going, by the way. We’ve officially reached the hour mark and who knows when he started!?) But now to the meat and potatoes of this post, this bread (which would indeed go nicely with meat and potatoes). I have been on a semi-Irish-bread-kick as of late. This is the second recipe I’ve tried in the last week and I like it a bit. Okay, a lot. The first loaf I made, though tasty for sure, was quite dense. Okay, very dense, like I eat bricks for breakfast, how ’bout you? But amazingly, though brickish, it was still quite good. Especially toasted and smeared with peanut butter and honey. Totally tasted like a Nutterbutter. Throwback.
But this loaf turned out scores above the other. Not dense, still tasty, studded with sweet dried cherries and best warm from the oven and smeared with butter. With only four ingredients plus the cherries, it’s easy to make and easy to bake. I like to think I’m a bit Irish, too. My parents say I am. But then again they also say I’m part Native American and something like 10% African American. Or maybe only 3%, but for sure, I’m a fruitcake. Or a melting pot. Or whatever. The point is, I may be Irish and I got a little kick in the pants picturing myself over in Ireland on my plot of green land, in my stone floor kitchen, apron on, baking this loaf of tradition over my roaring wood stove. Sounds nice. Perhaps some day.
But for today, like the dancing man, I’ll find joy. In my linoleum lined kitchen. And in the whirls of my mini-dishwasher. In the hum of my big white refrigerator and the vacuuming that needs done. In the smile from the postman and in preparing dinner. In the sunlight and heavy clouds. In today. Because it’s a gift. (And yes, he’s still dancing. And yes, I’m still smiling.)
Irish Soda Bread with Dried Cherries
Adapted from Fine Cooking
Makes one loaf
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Position oven rack in the center of oven and preheat to 450 degrees. Lightly flour a large, rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
Sift dry ingredients together into a large, wide bowl. Add dried cherries and stir with fingers to coat cherries in flour mixture. Make a well in the center of dry ingredients and pour buttermilk, all at once into well. Stir with one hand, fingers spread apart (like a rake), moving in circles to incorporate buttermilk into dry ingredients. (If needed, add more buttermilk, one tablespoon at a time until dough just barely comes together.) Do not overwork dough. It should be soft. Using a flexible bench scraper, a spatula or your hands, gently turn dough out onto a heavily floured surface. Pat dough into a round about 6 3/4 inches in diameter and 1 1/2 inches high in the center. Turn the round over so that the floured side is now face up.
Score a cross on the dough using a sharp knife. The cut should be 1/4 inch deep and extend fully across the dough, from one side to the other. Transfer dough to prepared baking sheet with cross side up. Bake for 15 minutes then lower oven temperature to 400 degrees. Bake another 15-25 minutes or until loaf is browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.