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once upon a time someone told me that the mark of a good baker, regardless of  the delicious cakes, and intricate pastries they might be able to make, is how well they can make a loaf of bread. being a beginner baker, and having not grown up in a baker’s family, the idea of making my own bread sounds quaint and foreign…but also lovely, and wonderful!

and so i decided that i wanted to bake my own bread. and my favorite breads are very crusty baguettes. so i set about doing my research, and stumbled upon an episode of baking with julia child in which she bakes baguettes and croissants by hand. excited, i settled in to watch how it was done.

halfway through the episode, i drove to the bakery and bought baguettes and croissants. why? because making these by hand seemed completely impossible to me.  not only did i not have the ceramic tiles to line my oven with, but i also did not have the 3 days to wait to eat croissants. i was blown away. further, i didn’t have patience to kneed in the yeast by hand, and then to kneed the dough by hand over 700 times. no joke. they showed this on the show.

and so i thought–if i can support a local business by buying and enjoying their high quality organic bread made from all local ingredients for about $3, then why destroy my hands kneeding for several hours?

but it was still there in the back of my head–for whatever reason. i made scones, and pies, and cakes in full size, miniature, and had a lot of fun. but i couldn’t make bread. so when one of my friends suggested that i learn to make honey wheat bread from him, i took the opportunity.

so. as it turns out, honey wheat bread takes over 3 hours to make. no wonder bread is the mark of a talented baker.

while we waited for the honey wheat bread, he tried out an irish soda bread recipe. and at first bite i realized that i was bread-redeemed! the bread was delicious! and easy! and takes only about an hour! and i could even make it myself without worrying about the food science behind yeast, or over/under working the dough! it was best hot out of the oven with butter. but was also delicious as toast, and for sandwiches.

it’s a good compromise for me, and “easy” bread recipe!

Amazingly Easy Irish Soda Bread
Prep Time: 15 Min  Cook Time: 50 Min

4 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup buttermilk

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a large baking sheet.

2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and margarine. Stir in 1 cup of buttermilk and egg. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead slightly. Form dough into a round and place on prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine melted butter with 1/4 cup buttermilk; brush loaf with this mixture. Use a sharp knife to cut an ‘X’ into the top of the loaf.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 30 to 50 minutes. You may continue to brush the loaf with the butter mixture while it bakes.