There’s nothing I like better about grocery shopping than free samples. Yes, I’m one of those people who’s always angling to get a little nibble of whatever’s being offered at the farmer’s market or Whole Foods. I think it’s a result of the fact that I never ever buy snacks- you won’t see me stopping at a convenience store or lining up at the snack machine at work. I can’t remember the last time I bought a power bar, let alone a candy bar or a bag of chips. But when it comes to those one-bite samples, I just can’t get enough.
In the annals of useless memory, I seem to have even archived favorite samples from the past. I remember a particular sample of pumpkin bread from Trader Joe’s – topped with a dab of mascarpone and a sprinkle of granola, it was good enough to merit an e-mail to a friend later in the day. And I’m always partial to the cream puffs at Costco. Most recently, a trip to Whole Foods (a veritable buffet of free samples, especially for those who like cheese), turned up a shockingly delicious Irish soda bread. Dark and crumbly with a smear of some sort of strawberry cream (maybe a flavored variation on clotted cream?), it was heavenly. I didn’t even realize that I liked Irish soda bread, but I was immediately smitten. The $7 price tag brought me back to reality, though, especially after I remembered that Irish soda bread gets notoriously stale and inedible after only a couple of days.
A check of the Whole Foods website when I got home revealed that they had posted their recipe for Irish Soda Bread, though, and I figured it was worth a try. Turns out this is a gluten-free version and is hence full of all sorts of unusual wheat flour substitutes (rice flour, almond flour, tapioca flour, potato starch). For those of us who usually are happen to have gluten-full foods, simply buying the ingredients to make this bread is something of a investment. But the memory of that sample was enough to drive me on, figuring that if I buying all of these unusual flours was a small price to pay for being able to make the bread as often as I liked.
As it happens, this isn’t the same bread that I remember so fondly. It’s good, but is much lighter in color- it’s much like a scone, in fact, but one that you could cut into thick slices. I enjoyed it several times this weekend warmed with a light smear of melted butter and some strawberry jam. It’s equally good unadulterated by toppings, fresh out of the oven. So while there was some disappointment that my reality didn’t live up to my memory of that fabulous bread, this homemade version still hit the spot. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!
Irish soda bread (makes about 8 slices)
2/3 cup rice flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup currants or raisins (soaked in hot water overnight and drained)
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 ounces (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Measure dry ingredients into a mixing bowl, and stir together.
2. Combine wet ingredients into a second bowl; stir them together, too. Now pour the wets slowly over the dries. The batter will be sticky and thick.
3. Spread it into a greased and rice-floured 6-inch pan, and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean (may take up to 45 minutes).