"I want another piece!"
"I love Irish Bread!"
"It's still warm. It tastes warm and yummy warm!"
The critics agree, Irish Soda Bread is awesome! Now, I am sure you are wondering who these tough critics are.. So I'll tell you: they are the four-year-olds in my UWS nursery school classroom.
As picky eaters go, nursery school children top the charts. In this infamously picky crowd, it is almost unbelievable that every child present in school today ate (devoured) their portion of Irish Soda Bread. Not all, but most, requested more. This cooking project supports my belief that if you allow children the opportunity to take part in cooking and food prep they are more apt to try (and love) foods.
With all of this bread baking in our UES apartment I have been looking for an opportunity to bring it crosstown into my classroom. I feel that cooking is great for kids and that bread especially is therapeutic -- the kneading is a perfect outlet for movement.. and in a productive way! So, as Saint Patrick's Day approached I planned to make Irish Soda Bread with the classroom.
Children "folding and smooshing" aka kneading:
I modeled kneading and asked them to describe what I was doing. I threw in the word "kneading" and gave equal (if not more) emphasis to "fold and smoosh." Some children wanted to shape their dough "like playdough" which is perfect. They played and kneaded for about 5-10 minutes and rolled the dough into a ball as they were ready to put it onto the baking sheet.
A soda bread is a term that encompasses a everything from your basic baking soda-flour-salt bread to a sweeter, raisin-filled, more dessert-like soda "bread" (in quotes because it may be more cake-like than bread). American's are more familiar with the cake-style and the Irish are more familiar with the basic, bread. It is a quick bread which means there is less wait time because the recipe doesn't call for any yeast -- the rising agent is the baking soda.
Luck of the Irish Dairy Bread Buns (adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion)
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Combine dry ingredients. Blend thoroughly making sure to press out any lumps in baking soda.
- Add butter.
- Use fingers to rub in butter.
- Make a well in the center.
- Count to 20 while slowly pouring in buttermilk.
- Stir gently.
- Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until dough comes together.
- Divide into 6-8 equally sized pieces.
- Knead and shape individually.
- Bake for about 20-30 minutes** until golden brown.
- Let cool and finally, ENJOY!
**If you bake this as a whole loaf of bread you'll need to adjust the cooking time to be longer, about 40 minutes.
I will spare you most of the teachable moments this recipe provides.. counting to 20, digging the well, etc. I could go on and on. Lil can testify. I would like to note the fourth step, using fingers to rub the butter into the flour. It was a fantastic tactile experience for the children with the exception of one child who had a sensory hesitation so I invited him use a spoon. Even he participated in the kneading. Both kneading and stirring with the hands provided awesome, joyful learning experiences.
Happy belated Saint Patrick's Day!