By Lisa Crockett
I love to cook – I think it's really magical to come home from the supermarket with a bag full of raw materials and then end up with something delicious – a chocolate cake, say, or chicken enchiladas. But I haven't always been so enchanted with the culinary arts. I am a latecomer to the world of cooking. My mother taught me some basics and was an accomplished cook herself, but I wasn't interested in learning much more than that until I was an adult living on my own and realized that meals didn't magically appear on the table. I decided I could either starve, go broke eating out every night, or figure a few things out. Quickly.
So, after a few false starts, I figured out what to do with basic ingredients – grilled chicken, pasta, steamed veggies – and then started perusing cookbooks for ways to add variety and technical difficulty to my repertoire. I soon discovered that, for the most part, if you could read and follow directions, you could make just about anything. One Saturday afternoon when I had some time to kill, I baked a wedding cake and then invited friends over to help me devour it.
But there was one item that I just couldn't get right. Bread. I tried everything. More flour made it too heavy, too little flour and it wouldn't hold together. Add to that the fact that yeast bread takes a lot of time and attention, and I soon gave up on the idea that I could make a decent loaf of bread. Until, one St. Patrick's Day, I discovered Irish soda bread. It comes together more like a biscuit and doesn't require kneading and rising like traditional yeast bread.
It has a somewhat different texture than regular yeast bread, but it's delicious just the same. Warm from the oven with a touch of butter, it's delicious with a hearty soup or stew. Or, for something slightly sweet, try the version here with raisins, sugar, butter and eggs added to enrich the dough. It makes great toast for a St. Patty's Day breakfast.