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Irish Soda Bread--With a Surprise

Making this recipe not only results in a delicious taste treat but it reminds us how blessed we are. For this recipe is an enhanced version of a bread made by the poor back in the old days. Serving this allows us to meditate on the good things we have now that only the very well off could afford a hundred or so years ago.
Loaf of Irish Soda Bread

Gather together with some peaceful friends and serve this bread while you think about these verses:
"Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.  Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it" (Proverbs 15:16-17, ESV). And, "Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife" (Proverbs 17:1, ESV). The deliciousness of an elaborate feast lasts for maybe an hour, while the hurt of unkind words or expressions of contempt can last for years, even a lifetime.

And besides, we know that we don't live by bread alone (Matthew 4:4, Deuteronomy 8:3). Life is more than eating, so whether we have much or little we should be content.

Those just now considering the prospect of marriage should ask themselves, "Would I rather spend my life arguing with a critical, disagreeable, wealthy spouse while the filet mignon grows cold on the plate, or spend my life listening to funny stories and interesting news of the day from my spouse of modest means, while eating fried chicken?

In fact, if you are experiencing stress or strife in a relationship at work, at home, or with a friend, make this bread and invite that person to share it with you while you talk about the need and value for kindness and harmony.

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dried apricots (that's the surprise)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1  1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/4 cups cold buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
2/3 cup dried apricots

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.  Add the butter and mix on low speeed until the butter is mixed into the flour.  Don't be afraid to get your fingers in the mixture to thoroughly mix the butter with the flour.
Inside view of Irish Soda Bread

Lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a small bowl.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture.   Combine the dried apricots with a little less than 1 tablespoon of flour (this technique is to prevent the apricots from sticking together) and mix into the dough.  It will be very wet.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf.  Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut across the top of the bread (like a cross shape) with a serrated knife. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.  When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.

Cool on a baking rack.  You can serve warm.  The bread tastes best the same day as it was baked.

The photograph here shows the detail of the inside of the loaf, with the dried apricot pieces showing. The apricot pieces are the surprise of the recipe, since they were not included in the orginal recipes. Enhancing simple things with a touch of taste is one of the principles of happiness.

Soda Bread witih Butter and Jelly

So, the advice is to eat the bread the same day it was baked, eh?  Does that imply that is might not be scarfed down immedidtely?
Well, you can see in this picture that once the bread is properly prepared, the mouth can be faster than the camera. Here you see a slice of the bread with a little butter and some strawberry jelly on it. But I will tell you the real secret to make this bread glow in the dark (exaggeration copyright 2013 by me). It's the same as the scone-preparation technique.

Step one. Cut a slice of this bread about an inch thick.

Step two. Spread a layer of real butter about one eighth of an inch thick all across the bread.
Step three. Spread a layer of jam or jelly over the butter, about a quarter of an inch thick (apricot would be a nice compliment to this particular version, but any flavor you like is legal).

Step four. Spread a layer of heavy whipping cream, whipped stiff, over the layer of jelly, about half an inch thick.

Step five. Eat with a cup of hot tea. Yes, it's messy, it might be drippy, it probably has a few calories tucked in there somewhere, but it is goooooood.

Other recipes of note
Peanut Butter Banana Bread
Chicken Salad Tea Sandwiches
Very Raspberry Very Merry Coffee Cake with Chocolate
Spinach and Bacon Quiche
Lemon Cupcake Surprise
Quadruple Chocolate Brownies
Intensely Lemon Cookies
Macaroni and Cheese Supreme

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