Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Winter Breakfast and Irish Cooking

Breakfast Crumb Cake
Breakfast Crumb Cake

One of my favorite cookbooks is Monica Sheridan's The Art of Irish Cooking. Not just because of my Irish heritage, (my husband's Irish ancestry is far more copious) but I love the simplicity of Irish cookery and the fact that, despite all odds, the Irish survived where a less hearty group of people may have perished.

I also love this book for this passage:

"I can remember, as if it were yesterday, the day my great-grandmother moved from the cottage where she had lived all her married life to a more modern abode. When the day of parting came she refused to budge until a bucketful of live embers was carried to her new home and the fire kindled from them. In her old home the fire-banked up every night-had never been quenched for two hundred years, and she was not going to abandon her luck and her feeling for the dead generations behind her."

What an heirloom to have! I sadly suspect the fire ended there with great-grandma, but that it lived even that long was a testament to tradition and family.

Another passage I'm fond of:

"Breakfast, which started at 8 A.M. for the smaller children going off to school, always began with oaten porridge and milk straight from the cow and still warm...The porridge was followed by boiled eggs...A great cake
of brown bread stood at either end of the table..."

This passage I love because it so well describes our wintertime breakfasts here except that we don't have a cow. My own favorite brown bread recipe has already been posted and oatmeal and hard boiled eggs are pretty straightforward. I will offer up these few tidbits;

When I make oatmeal I add to the cooking water: brown sugar, vanilla extract, a tablespoon or two of butter and a pinch of salt. It comes out already sweetened and the family prefers it that way. I can't say how much of each honestly, it's just one of those things I will probably never be able to recite a recipe for. When time permits I make steel cut oats from McCann's. They take longer to cook but are worth it.

Hard boiled eggs are on of those things everyone has the "perfect" way to make. I place my eggs in a saucepan, cover with cold water and bring the water just to a boil, lid the pan-take off the heat and let stand for 15 minutes. I run them under cold water and the shells usually come right off and I don't suffer from "green yolks".

This is Monica Sheridan's recipe for brown bread, not yeast leavened, but closer to Irish soda bread made with baking soda.

Brown Bread (1)
Printable Recipe

4 cups stone-ground whole-wheat flour
2 cups white flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups buttermilk, sour milk, or sweet milk*
(Anne's note *sweet milk is another name for plain old MILK)

Mix the whole-wheat flour thoroughly with the white flour, salt, and soda. Make a well in the center and gradually mix in the liquid. Stir with a wooden spoon. You may need less, or more, liquid-a lot depends on the absorbent quality of the flour. (Anne again-the weather has an impact as well-keep humidity in mind when you are baking-less liquid on humid days, more on dry days is a general rule) The dough should be soft but manageable.

Knead the dough into a ball in the mixing bowl with your floured hands. Put it on a lightly floured baking sheet and with the palm of your hand flatten out in a circle that is 1 1/2 inches thick. With a knife dipped in flour make a cross through the center of the bread so that it will easily break in quarters when it is baked. Bake at 425 degrees F for 25 minutes, reduce heat to 350 degrees F, and bake a further 15 minutes.

If the crust seems too hard, wrap the baked cake in a damp tea cloth and leave standing upright until it is cool. The bread should not be cut until it has set-about 6 hours after it comes out of the oven.

Now, there is no way I am up to baking our own favorite yeast bread daily-so we often have a very versatile crumb cake that everyone loves.

Breakfast Crumb Cake
Printable Recipe

2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar brown or white
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup margarine, butter or shortening
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (PLEASE try freshly grated! It really is different)
2 eggs-slightly beaten
1 1/3 cups buttermilk, sour milk or milk

Mix together flour, sugar and salt. Cut in shortening (or margarine or butter) until
crumbly. Set aside 1/2 cup of crumbs. Add remaining ingredients and mix until well blended. Pour into a greased 13x9x2 baking pan and top with crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees F for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

My family is nuts about this right from the oven.


eyes_only4him said...

that breakfast cake thing looks good..

i love those passages from that book too

KFarmer said...

great recipes- and helpful hints too. I am going to try your way of boiling eggs- my egg always stick to the side of the shell :( Makes for some nasty looking deviled eggs!