Irish wheaten bread with a Californian twist

It’s that time of year again – the Birds of Paradise flowers are blossoming, capturing the winter sunshine and giving it an extra vibe. The pomegranates are ready to harvest, though this year, we’ve had a disappointing crop.  Here is a picture of exactly two thirds of the produce.
The other third of the harvest was consumed when my Mum came to visit.  Last year, we had heaps of fruit from this tree, and I made juice and jelly.  The kitchen resembled a crime scene afterward, with all the splashes of the red juice. I pruned the tree in late January, and the leaves flourished during the spring and summer.  We even had quite a few flowers, so I don’t know why the crop failed.  My guess is that it may have been due to the unseasonably cool summer we had, or a pollination problem as a consequence of that weather.  What ever happened, we only got three pomegranates!
On the up side, the lemon tree, that I vigorously pruned last year, has blossomed at long last.
I had threatened to cut it down and replace it with one of my cherry trees.  It obviously overheard me – there really is something in this talking-to-plants lark.  My orchids are thriving now after that showdown!
The orange tree is laden with fruit too. 
We have tried some, but they are still bitter.  Last year, we didn’t harvest them until January, so we will sample one each week until they are how we like them.  When we harvested them last year, we were able to eat them from the tree until March, but then we had a glut of them.  
Unwilling to let them go to waste, we spent a day picking, peeling and juicing them, then froze the juice.  The orange pulp looked too nice to throw away, and I didn’t want to waste it, so I froze it until I came up with a use for it.
Californian wheaten bread!

I adjusted a recipe that I use all the time for (Irish) wheaten bread (in the US it may be referred to as brown soda bread).

  • 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 2 cups orange pulp (after juicing)
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-2 cups of sour milk or buttermilk – Actually, I use almond milk with a half teaspoon of baking powder in it, but you can do the same with ordinary cows milk.

1.   Preheat the oven to 450o F.
2.   In a big bowl, sift the dry ingredients together making sure the bicarbonate of soda is evenly mixed.
3.   Add the orange pulp.
4.   Quickly add the milk and stir to get a soft, raggy looking dough.  Don’t spend too long mixing as speed is important here.  As soon as the bicarbonate of soda gets wet, the chemical reaction begins that causes the dough to rise, so you don’t have to knead this bread at all.  In fact, more than a few seconds will cause the loaf to be tough, so the good news is – less is best.
5.   Turn the dough out on a baking sheet that has been lightly dusted with flour.
6.   Shape it into a slightly domed circle about 6-8 inches in diameter.
7.   Use a sharp knife to cut a cross right across the loaf to about half the depth of the loaf.
8.   Gently (sudden jarring may disturb the developing carbon dioxide bubbles that help it rise) set the baking sheet into the oven and bake at 450o F for 10 minutes.
9.   Then, turn the oven down to 400o F for 35 minutes.
10. Tap the bottom of the loaf – a hollow sound means it’s done.
11. Put on a rack to cool.
12. Serve with butter (ideally melting and dripping of the bread), homemade Meyer lemon marmalade and a big mug of Barry’s tea.

If you don’t have orange pulp substitute with a half cup of oatmeal and another cup of the milk.  It is a very forgiving recipe.  The bread should be heavy – not light and fluffy.  It can also take the addition of raisins or for a savory touch Jalapeno peppers – basically, experiment then share your conclusions!

Byddi Lee

7 replies to Irish wheaten bread with a Californian twist

  1. Damn, I am jealous of the pomegranates even if you only ended up with three of them. I'm attempting to grow a Meyer Lemon inside here in zone 6, we'll see. The bread looks fantastic too!

  2. I love pomegranates, but have avoided growing them here. All too often it seems they split before they're ripe here, at least the ones I've seen in other gardens. Yours look good though, do you know which cultivar you have? Your oranges look fabulous too…we really need to get an orange tree going here!

  3. I have no idea which cultivar I have but the pomegranates do taste good when they grow. I wonder could you graft it?

  4. Love love love the recipe, thanks sooo much! I've been waiting ever since you first mentioned it.
    Similar to my Soda Bread but with great twists. I'll confess here I've never eaten a pomegranate, juice notwithstanding, and I'm feeling just a tad inadequate in my life experiences.
    Thanks Biddi, for encouraging me to expand my proverbial horizons.

  5. Happy to be of service! I had not even seen a pomegranate until I was 28 years old. And I was 32 before I ever ate a butternut squash – can't even recall seeing them before that but that's not to say they weren't floating around Belfast. And I was in my mid thirties before I tasted pumpkin pie… folks here in the USA find that horrific!

  6. Thanks for sharing this recipe. It looks tasty.
    I love almond milk too. It hits the spot.

  7. Byddi,
    You've reminded me that for years I baked Irish Soda bread, and then for some reason it fell out of my repertoire!
    All best to you, my friend,
    Have a fabulous 2011! And continue to transport me to your state of California through Irish eyes ;~D
    aka Alice's Garden Travel Buzz

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