Thursday night was my last graduate school class ever. All that is left is a paper that will be submitted by email so it was also, bewilderingly, my last time setting foot in the school as a student. I spent so much time thinking about and working toward applying to this program, and then nearly went off more than one mental cliff trying to complete the degree, and now...I'm about to just be done. Just like that.
It was, without a doubt, the single hardest thing I have ever done. For those who don't know me, I have a pretty demanding job that requires nights, weekends, and travel. Concurrently, I've been working toward an MBA in a program that, um, doesn't really give you much leeway with regard to the balancing act that comes with the working-full-time-while-doing-a-masters lifestyle.
This bread reminds me of that trip, and of the insane balancing act and sacrifices of the last few years. It is reminiscent of Irish Soda Bread, only less sweet, and Bryan said that it is the same dense, hearty, soda-y bread that he had in many Irish pubs, served alongside soups and stews.
I would have really liked to try the real thing. But Ireland will still be there, and maybe someday I will make it there. For the record, we do have a pretty amazing trip planned in September to celebrate the completion of the program (Bryan deserves it just as much, if not more, than I do. I could not have done this without him). And until I make it to Ireland for their dense bread, at least I can have this similar hearty, chewy, and tangy skillet bread.
This is the fastest, easiest bread I think I've ever made. Although I enjoy spending time on some recipes, especially those that I make for others, this is not one of them. This recipe is a one-bowl, no knead, and certainly no-rise quick bread that cooks in a skillet (or baking pan or cookie sheet). You can make it in less than an hour, which is quite handy when you have work and homework to complete - or really any other obligations vying for your time. And most importantly, it tastes fantastic, especially when you eat it with a thick stew while pretending to be in some pub overlooking the Cliffs of Moher. Give it a try!
Quick and Easy Skillet Bread
From Buttercream Fanatic (2013)
1 Tablespoon cornmeal (optional, but recommended to prevent sticking)
2 cups bread flour*
2 teaspoons baking soda
Pinch of salt, to taste
3 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups buttermilk**
*Note #1: All-purpose flour is ok if you don't have bread flour, but it will produce a less chewy consistency
** Note #2: If you don't have buttermilk on hand, pour 1 Tablespoon lemon juice into 1 cup + 3 Tablespoons regular milk, stir briefly, and let sit for 3-5 minutes until curdled slightly.
Preheat the oven to 425F. Lightly coat the bottom and sides of an oven-safe skilled (cast-iron is recommended) with nonstick spray. If you are using cornmeal, use it to dust the bottom of the evenly. Set the pan aside.
Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl, ensuring that you break up any globs of flour. Slowly add buttermilk, whisking simultaneously, until just combined. The dough will be clumpy and sticky, which is fine. Gather it into a ball in the center of the bowl and turn it into the prepared pan.
Bake at 425 for 15 minutes before reducing the heat to 350 for another 10-12 minutes, until a knife or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Immediately remove from the pan when finished and cool completely on a wire rack for 15 minutes before slicing.
Makes one loaf. Store in an airtight container or ziptop bag at room temperature for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to three months.
Biscuit option: prepare the dough the same way, but divide into thirds and shape each into a ball. Place in prepared skillet or cookie sheet about two inches apart and bake for 15 minutes at 425F.
If you like savory breads, you might also like my No-Knead Beer Bread.