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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Experiment #19 & 20: Slow Cooker Corned Beef & Irish Soda Bread

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  For the last ten years or so, I have celebrated St. Patrick's Day by cooking corned beef and vegetables.  This year for some reason, I have been thinking about my grandfather that passed away last year and how about 5 years ago I found out how much he loved corned beef when I was at his house for St. Patrick's day.  I hope he gets some wherever he is this year and that it is as delicious as the corned beef he prepared years ago.

This year I decided to try my hand at Irish Soda Bread as well since I've never made it before and I wanted to do a little more to celebrate St. Patrick's Day this year.

Slow-Cooker Corned Beef and Vegetables
Uncured Corned Beef (I had a 3 lb.)
Carrots, cut into matchsticks
Gold Potatoes, cut into quarters

Place cut carrots and potatoes on the bottom of a slow cooker.
Pour over corned beef and contents of package (the spices and juice.)
Cover with water and cook on low for 8 hours.  

If you want you can also place a peeled onion that has been quartered in with the carrots and potatoes and if you would like cabbage (which I usually have, but I didn't this year) you can place wedges of washed cabbage into the slow cooker a half an hour before you are done cooking the corned beef.  I enjoy my corned beef with mustard.

 Irish Soda Bread 
There are many different recipes for this bread, but I was looking for a recipe with more whole wheat than white and an easy recipe as well.  I found this recipe on the Food Network web-site.  It is from Claire Robinson's show 5 Ingredient Fix.  The recipe is quite simple and I thought it looked easy enough to do in a short amount of time.  It does not have raisins, which I found in other recipes and so I decided to add 1/3 of a cup, a little amount of raisins, but not to overpower the bread.  Apparently, soda bread is normally without raisins and caraway seeds unless it is a special occasion.

Updated March 17, 2015: I increased the raisins to 3/4 cup, because I didn't think there were enough the last time I made this recipe and I added them to the flour first before adding the buttermilk. I also increased the kosher salt because it seemed like it was lacking it the last time I made it.

Here is the recipe:
Soda Bread Recipe adapted from Claire Robinson's 5 Ingredient Fix recipe
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour, plus more for kneading surface
3 cups white whole wheat flour (the original recipe just used whole wheat flour)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup raisins, golden or black

Preheat oven 425F.

Whisk together flours, baking soda and salt.  Add raisins if using and mix until they are coated with the flour mixture.   Pour in most of the buttermilk stirring until a soft dough forms. Then add the rest of the buttermilk.  It will be sticky!

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and lightly knead into a shapeable dough.  Avoid overworking the dough, just until it is a nice round shape.  Shape the dough into a round disk shaped loaf and cut a deep X into the top with a serrated knife. If you cut a shallow X, the bread will not cook properly, and that's no good. :)

Place the dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet (I used my silpat mat) and bake for 10 minutes at 425F.  Lower the oven temperature to 375F and bake another 30 to 40 minutes. (The time really depends on how you shape your bread. If you want to bake it less, divide into two loaves and bake for less time.)  Remove bread from the oven to a cutting board.  Cool slightly before cutting and enjoy warm.

The results:
I thought the bread was pretty good.  The bread is dense and did not have too much flavor in it.  The raisins definitely helped, but maybe it needs more salt?   During my research, I saw that Ina Garten added orange zest to her Irish Soda bread.  Maybe I'll try that next year.  I enjoyed it with butter, which is the way Jacques Pepin likes his soda bread.

Update March 19th, 2013:  I found out through the last few days that I didn't distribute the raisins very well.  They were mostly on the outside edges of the bread.  I read a few recipes and it looks like I should have added them when you add the buttermilk for optimal distribution.  That's for next time.

Link to the recipe:
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/claire-robinson/soda-bread-recipe/index.html

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