irish for a day

I always wanted to be Irish.

Growing up, I'd meet someone for the first time and, upon hearing my name, they'd often exclaim, "Oh, Tara! You must be Irish!" Usually I'd correct them. But sometimes, if it was someone I knew I'd never get close enough to to risk my game being exposed, I'd play along and say something to the effect of, "Yes, I've got some Irish ancestry in me." It got even easier to fool people when I dyed my hair a deep, mahogany red, which really brought out the green in my eyes. Those were fun times.

These days, I'm much more likely to be hoping I discover a long-lost relative in Italy or France (or, as was the case last night, a Mexican grandmother, one who would gently put her wise hands over mine and teach me exactly how to roll out a perfect corn tortilla), but still, there lingers a bit of the Irish mystique for me.

So of course I couldn't let today pass without jumping on the bandwagon. I dutifully dressed my family in green, drew a lucky shamrock for Kalen, and made my first Irish soda bread.

Only, I found out afterward that it wasn't a very traditional version (even if you ignore the fact that it was gluten-free). According to this page, truly traditional Irish soda bread does not contain eggs, sugar, or butter. Mine had all three. I did, however, inadvertently score a point when I omitted the raisins that every recipe I checked called for (we were all out), since those also never made it into the original soda breads. I don't think that's enough to redeem me, though.

Anyway, Irish or not, I made heavenly, pillowy-soft little rolls with a satisfying crusty exterior, that were excellent warm with melted butter, and again later in the day, cool and plain and eaten out of hand like an apple. Kalen said they tasted like cookies (note to self: there's too much sugar in there to serve these as bread!), I was reminded more of drop scones, and Wylie simply said, "Good!" Repeatedly.

When I was making them, I wanted to use a blend of my all-purpose and pastry flour mixes, but didn't have any pastry flour made up. So in the interest of time, I ad-libbed, throwing in a variety of flours and starches at whim. But in addition to the all-purpose mix, my recipe now also lists five more flours! Not so convenient for the rest of you. I think you could just go ahead with a full 2 cups of all-purpose mix and forget the rest, or use a half cup of pastry flour mix in place of all the "tablespoons of this and that." Either way, they're quick and delicious, so what's not to love?

Not-So-Irish Soda Bread Rolls
Yields 6-8 rolls

1 1/2 cups Tara's all-purpose gf baking mix (found at the end of this post)
3 Tbsp white rice flour
2 Tbsp sweet rice flour
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp potato starch
1 Tbsp tapioca starch
1 tsp xanthan gum
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
3/4 liquid cup plus 1 Tbsp whole milk buttermilk (I made my own)
1 egg white, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet tray with parchment or a Silpat.

Combine all dry ingredients in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk to sift together. Add the cold butter pieces, and work it in with your fingers until the whole lot resembles coarse meal. Combine the buttermilk and egg white, then pour it into the flour mixture. Using a wooden spoon, gently mix the dough until it comes together, and is more smooth than shaggy. (I think I over-mixed mine. I don't think it mattered.)

Scoop the dough into 6-8 mounds on the prepared sheet tray, and, with wet fingertips, smooth the surface of the rolls. Dip a very sharp knife into cold water and cut a cross in each roll.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the rolls are a lovely golden brown and their internal temperature reads around 185 degrees.

Line a bowl with a dishtowel or cloth napkin, pile in the hot rolls, fold the edges of the towel up to cover the rolls, and allow them to cool. Snack on them all day.

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