Reason 27: Since becoming vegan, I feel more connected to my food. Of the earth.
This all began with a search for something else, then ended on bread. I had been browsing a shelf for one thing, then noticed this: The Bread Bible by Beth Hensperger. The cover of this book has a simple loaf of bread being held in its seemingly warm loaf pan wrapped in a white towel, held by two hands--it was just beautiful to me. I have to admit a fear of "hand made" breads of the yeast kind. I still have this fear. (Yeast used in Breadman Bread Machine is entirely different from the "put a well in the middle of the bowl, then knead by hand" sort.) I am not shy about my wonderful pumpkin bread I make every year. I love it, people I give it to as a gift love it--it is such a great recipe. Same with banana bread. Straightforward concept and quite easy as bread making goes. But give me a sourdough or french loaf recipe and I sort of shrink. Making a sourdough some day is on my bucket list (and I have a feeling this is going to happen sooner rather than later thanks to this book). I have always been in awe of homemade bread. I think this goes along with my absolute fascination with being in a bakery. I love them! I feel like that might be what heaven is like, one big bakery--with amazing coffee served daily. So, I got around to reading the Bread Bible and have seen many recipes for Irish Soda Bread in the past. The plus for me is the absence of the word "yeast" in the ingredient list. If you believe all you read on the Internet, (like I do)--the Irish history on this is that this bread did not originate with the Irish, but rather in Austria. And, if you want, you can also consider the discovery of baking powder as a plus in its evolution. The Irish relied on baking it in their stone fireplaces early on, thus the simple, come together fashion the bread is made--you can mix this and eat it within about an hour--good for the Irish folk who had to work all day, then come home and still have time for their "blarney" (yes, I know Irish blarney well, I married an Irish-Scottish man). This loaf is a good hearty, almost scone-like bread. Especially in its texture and the way it is formed--wet and gooey dough, needing to be just slightly kneaded, then baked right away. It's a heavy bread, but heavenly in that the flavors are surprising with each bite. I served mine with a glob of vegan margarine. It was delicious!
Vegan Irish Soda Bread
3 tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer (mixed with 4 tablespoons warm water)
1 1/2 cups soy milk (mixed with 1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar)
2 tablespoons Earth Balance butter stick (melted)
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup dried Craisins
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
dash of fresh ground pepper
Preheat oven to 375. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. First, prep your egg-replacer mixture and set aside. Second, place 1 1/2 cups of soy milk in a bowl then add 2 1/2 tablespoons of the apple cider vinegar to this and set it aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk or mix the dry ingredients together--including the nuts and raisins, set aside. In a small bowl, whisk the Ener-G Egg Replacer mixture with melted butter and soy milk. Add this mixture to the dry being sure you incorporate it by hand. In other words, don't use much force--this is going to be lumpy and some spots will be drier than others. Turn the dough out onto a "lightly" floured surface. Knead it only a few times. I discovered that this part was taking me a bit longer to manage because I forgot to flour my hands--so remember to flour your hands! Knead it very gently--just until it comes together. Shape it into a ball and divide the ball in half. Place the two halves (reshape if you feel they need it--I had to) and place on the parchment paper. Score the two loaves in the middle with an "x" about a 1/4-1/2" deep. Bake for about 35 minutes--until you begin to see the crust browning and until you smell the bread. (Julia always says that when you can smell what you are baking--then it is done.) I smelled the bread, but I gave it a few more minutes before I pulled it out. Now, let the bread rest. To be true to good baking bread rules, the bread would do better if it were to cool completely before slicing. I could not wait, so I sliced her open about ten minutes out of the oven. It was delicious. It was a heavy bread, but delicious! It re-warms well! Slather some vegan margarine on it for good measure!