This is the time of year when I eagerly peek into the home of my Irish-born-and-raised friend, Margaret Sinnott Wachholz, to discover the St. Patrick's Day activities she is stirring up with 3-year-old Ronan and 6-year-old twins Niamh and Oisin. Intent on passing along her heritage, she focuses on baking this year.
Spin a globe with your kids and let your fingers land on the Emerald Isle. Then get both hands in the dough to make Margaret's Everyday Irish Soda Bread.
"Plain soda bread is as likely to be eaten as an accompaniment to a main meal (to soak up the gravy) as it is to appear at breakfast and afternoon tea," Margaret recalls. "Since the leavening agent is baking soda rather than yeast, you don't need to wait for the dough to rise — ideal for children's short attention spans."
For one loaf, you'll need these ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup unprocessed wheat bran
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups buttermilk
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
1. In a large bowl, whisk or stir together the flours, bran, salt, baking soda and baking powder until well combined. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk all at once. Stir with a fork until buttermilk is absorbed and the mixture begins to hold together. It should resemble a rough biscuit dough. Add additional buttermilk if too dry.
2. Using your hands, form the dough into a round, dome-shaped loaf about 8-inches in diameter. Lift the loaf from the bowl and transfer to the prepared baking sheet.
3. Dust the top of the loaf with flour.
4. With a sharp knife, an adult should incise a cross, about 3/4 inches deep, into the top of the loaf. Transfer immediately to the oven.
5. Bake 1 hour and 10 minutes (rotating pan halfway through baking time) or until bread is deep golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven. Transfer to wire rack to cool.
Best if eaten within two days.
Extra resource: Get inspired to prepare delicious Irish soups, stews and meat pies to enjoy with your homemade bread with "The Irish Pub Cookbook" by Margaret M. Johnson (Chronicle Books: www.chroniclebooks.com).
Donna Erickson's new award-winning television series "Donna's Day" is airing on public television nationwide. Visit www.donnasday.com to find out when it airs on your local PBS station and to sign up for Donna's e-newsletter. Her latest book is "Donna Erickson's Fabulous Funstuff for Families."
© Donna Erickson, Distributed by King Features Syndicate