The Old Schoolhouse magazine is featuring Cooking Up Curriculum on their Facebook Fan Page each month.
Come on in the kitchen, and let's start Cooking Up Curriculum! This ten-part series will encourage your family to join one another at the counter top for hands-on learning!
I am Susan, homeschooling mama of two vibrant little men and freelance writer. We have been using the kitchen as an engaging component of our learning since my biggest little man was able to rap a spoon on a pan! We've left no subject unturned... and no dish undirtied!
In recent years we have turned entirely to whole food nutrition. We do not use artificial ingredients. Period. If your grandma couldn't raise it, make it, gather it, barter for it, chase chickens for it, or even pronounce it... we choose not to eat it! What you will find in Cooking Up Curriculum are simple recipes with steps just begging for the smallest of fingers, balanced with some learning resources for our scholarly, curious, budding Einsteins. I am looking so forward to sharing with your family springboards for a new subject or a new season each time we gather together.
One thing to remember: embrace your child's best efforts in the kitchen. It's food. It's meant to be life sustaining... not gut wrenching! A bit of flour may be spilled, fingers are sure to get sticky (Oh, yes, we'll see to that today!), and measurements may be slightly less than precise. I think that perhaps because the kitchen is often Mama's domain, we have a tendency to exact a certain level of proficiency and efficiency from its production. When your little people are learning to write, do you take the pencil from a little hand and rewrite the letters to make them neater, more fluid, more legible? Of course not! Yet it seems to be mama-nature to over correct and micromanage in the kitchen. We aren't food stylists shooting photographs for home and food channels, are we? It's ok if your recipe result is a bit, um, rustic! Praise your child's best efforts and help them inhale that food with a satisfied smile and a full heart! These are moments they will treasure. There's something about those kitchen experiences that stick with them... heart time.
To preserve these precious memories, I suggest you choose a way of documenting the recipes you make together. Please don't follow in my footsteps, conjuring all manner of grandiose ideas for lovely legacy cookbooks perfectly presented for generations of use. If you are like me, you will be busy, and busy, and busy again until years have now evaporated, and you have no record! So we are starting our collection right along with you. Choose a simple spiral notebook, a binder with plastic sleeves, an index box full of blank cards, whatever works for you. Something EASY! If you have room, I suggest that the front of the page/card contain recipe information and the back be reserved for notes. When your family makes a recipe, encourage your cook(s) to note a review of the end result (Like it, love it, never to be made again?), any surprises, special occasions, fun memories. If you're a shutterbug, or have one, tuck in a few photos along the way. Making a recipe for the second or third time? Don't forget new notes. You may have a new cook, new preferences, different outcomes, new unforgettable moments. Don't forget to preserve them! How many times have you thumbed through entire cookbook cabinets trying to remember which recipe was "the good one"?!
Ok, on to today's experiment! In the last few weeks it seems my inbox is bulging with tips and recipes for Irish soda bread. Do you make Irish soda bread every March? Is yours the real deal? What's the story behind these yummy earthy loaves? Let's cook it up!
Irish soda bread is a great recipe for creating a St. Patrick's Day tradition in your family. Simple ingredients. Simple process. Good eats. Authentic Irish food reflects the nature of the country's truly simple, agrarian lifestyle. Due to a mild, humid climate the only wheat grown in Ireland is soft white wheat. Soft wheat is mild in taste, light in color and very low in protein. All wheat is not created equal. I have displayed the soft white wheat readily available in Ireland at the top of the photo. Below left is hard white, which has a higher protein/gluten content and mild taste. Below right is hard red with the higher yet protein/gluten content and a stronger, warm, nutty taste. The low protein/gluten content of soft white means the wheat cannot be leavened with yeast. You may be surprised to note that until sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) was invented, Irish SODA bread could not exist. Soda bread. No soda, no soda bread. So, did St. Patrick enjoy a crusty, warm loaf of Irish soda bread. Not even close. Baking soda was invented in 1846. It is believed that St. Patrick died on March 17, 460 A.D., nearly 1,500 years before baking soda was invented... other than the potash used by Native Americans... and that's an entirely separate article!
hile soft wheat is not compatible with yeast recipes, it is ideal for tender baked goods such as biscuits, pie crusts, quick breads, etc. This is also why, before the age of lightning speed goods transportation, the northern regions of the United States, with their more dramatic temperature fluctuations and lower humidity, were known for their yeast breads, such as bagels, yeast rolls, and french bread. They were raising hard wheat with its high protein/gluten content. Southern states with mild seasons and high humidity are known for their biscuits, cobblers and pies. They were raising soft wheat.
My favorite recipe for Irish soda bread is in the Bread Beckers' Recipe Collection. The only adaptation I would make if you want completely authentic soda bread is to omit the honey. Breads using shortening, honey, sugar, fruit, etc. are not traditional Irish soda bread. Tasty. But not authentic. For example, many recipes and stores put forth a sweet bread with raisins. This is more accurately named, "Spotted Dog". To learn more about the history of Irish soda bread and its variations, you may want to visit the site of the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread. (Yes, I know, I was surprised too!) Here you can find the earliest known Irish soda bread recipes.
If your family enjoys grinding your own grain, we will be usingfreshly milled soft white wheat. If you are purchasing flour, you will want to select pastry flour or cake flour. In some areas you may be able to find Odlum's flour, which is an Irish flour. I grind our soft white wheat coarsely for this recipe. Note the moist nature of the flour and the light color of the soft white wheat.
IRISH SODA BREAD
3 3/4 cups freshly milled flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
A little honey (1-2 Tbs. But remember this is optional if you wish to be a purist!)
1 1/2 cups of buttermilk
Combine dry ingredients, add honey and buttermilk and knead slightly. Shape into a round about 1 - 1 1/2 inch thick. Slash X across top. Bake on greased cookie sheet or pie pan at 375 degrees until done (about 45 minutes).
Remember to mix all ingredients gently with your hands! (I alerted you earlier this would be a sticky situation!) When your bread emerges from the oven all toasty, but slightly less than piping hot, crack your loaf open with your hands, break off a piece and enjoy some simple, crusty, earthy goodness... fresh from Ireland!
Looking for a little spring bonus? Here's a link to Resurrection Cookies for Easter on Annie's page including a printable version and the beautiful story behind them. Some of you have been making these for years... others will enjoy a sweet surprise for the first time this Easter!
Well, that's a taste of Cooking Up Curriculum for spring. Pile back into the kitchen next month for Fictitious Food! In the meantime, let those fingers get sticky and cook up some memories!