Friday Bread Basket 3/17/23
Welcome to the Wordloaf Friday Bread Basket, a weekly roundup of links and items relating to bread, baking, and grain. Today is St. Patrick’s Day, which is a big deal here in Boston and eastern MA, given how Irish our area is.
I’ve recently been doing research on Boston’s South Shore for a South Shore bar pizza story, and something I learned is that the South Shore, which stretches from Weymouth in the north to Plymouth in the south, is also known as Massachusetts’ “Irish Riviera,” since it is heavily populated by the descendants of Irish immigrants, who flocked to the area to cash in on its rich supply of Irish Moss, a seaweed rich in carrageenan, an important compound in food and other industries. Sichuate, about halfway down the Shore, is supposedly the “most Irish town in America,” though I’m not sure how they determined that ranking. There doesn’t appear to be any link between the Irishness of the South Shore and the area’s eponymous bar pizza (the latter is really more of an inland than a coastal thing), aside from maybe the fact that the Irish may have brought their tavern and pub eating traditions with them, and bar pizza originated and still mostly is served in, well, bars.
Today is also the 2nd anniversary of Quarantinystarter Day, aka St. Quarantiny Day, which marks the moment I first had the idea to make a COVID lockdown sourdough starter using minuscule amounts of flour (making it the prequel to this very newsletter and all that followed it). Most of you already know this story, but in case not, here’s a good summary:
St. Patty’s Day challenge
Speaking of St. Patrick’s Day, an Irish brown soda bread recipe I developed awhile back is finally online over at the Challenger website. It’s one of the recipes I taught in my soda bread workshop last year and really good! It uses a rye scald to keep the bread tender and moist longer than many soda breads, and is packed with whole grain flours. And yes, it uses the Challenger to bake the bread, though you can use any Dutch oven. (While most soda bread recipes don’t use a cloche to bake the bread, it is actually the traditional approach — Irish homes didn’t necessarily have ovens until relatively recently, and a Dutch oven can be used in a fireplace to bake.)
Speaking of Irish Bostonians:
It is also nearly Easter, which means it is hot cross bun season, for all those that celebrate. This Instagram post from Beth O'Brien, aka bethcooksthings, is a great place to start if you are looking for good recipes.
It is ALSO also nearly Passover, which means it is matzoh season for all those who celebrate. I loved this recent post from Leah Koenig's, which shares the joys of fried matzoh:
The process of frying matzo only takes a minute (less, actually!) and crisps up its texture without soaking up a lot of oil. You end up with something lighter, crunchier, and more delicate than what you started with. The oil also adds a welcome layer of flavor to Passover’s favorite cracker, removing its trademark “cardboard” vibe.
Fried matzo makes a useful stand in for corn tortillas and tortilla chips, as well as thinner Indian breads like puri and roti. It is somewhat reminiscent of pita chips, though airier in texture, and can also be used as the base for desserts (see below for ideas).
I’m not Jewish, but I enjoy matzoh very much and need to try this. (Which reminds me, someday I need to do a deep dive into matzoh here, maybe we can get Leah to write something up for us.) Also, don’t miss the bonus recipe for Bitter Greens and Orange Salad.
That’s it for this week’s bread basket. I hope you all have a peaceful weekend, see you on Monday.
Happy St. Quarantinny Day! As a wicked Irish lady who worked one too many horrid shifts on Saint Patrick’s day, i’ll gladly grab a new Saint. I’m so glad your newsletter exists, even though the strange scary shape of the world insisted on its beginning. And Eileen Myles! YES!
That Eileen Myles poem! (*swoon*) And a deep dive on matzoh? I'm all in. :)