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The Irish Table – Book Review

April 25, 2014

Who needs another cookbook? Many honestly don’t. Many want them because new ideas abound in cookbooks. Books about food come across my path often. This one grabbed my interest for the title.
My Irish Table goes beyond a cookbook. There’s notes, tips, tricks, stories, traditions shared from Ireland and the author uniquely shares comparisons between Ireland and the US. For example, there’s little nuggets like this:

To cook vegetables that grow on top of the ground, say, asparagus or peas,add them to water that is boiling. To cook vegetables that grow under the ground (potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, for example),start the cooking process in cold water. The exception is new potatoes, which are added to boiling water. Why? Because that’s the rule.

The production and preparation of food makes for meals to celebrate as well as those to forget.

Pullman Bread
Every day that I was in school I had a sandwich for lunch made with Johnson Mooney and O’Brien’s sliced white pan bread, which is the Irish version of Wonder bread, though it is way better. Pullman loaf is sometimes called pan bread or sandwich bread. This recipe calls for 11 cups of flour, which is more than a home mixer can handle at once, so you have to make the dough in two batches unless you have a commercial mixer. You will need a loaf pan that is 4 by 16 and 4 inches deep.
Makes 1 (4 1/4 pound) loaf
5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
5 1/2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 quart water.
Make the dough: Place half of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix on the lowest speed for 5 minutes and then on the next highest speed for 1 minute. The dough should be smooth and slightly tacky. If it is extremely tacky, beat in a bit more flour, adding it gradually until your fingers pull away from the dough with just a bit of adhesion when you touch it. Transfer the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Repeat the process with the remaining ingredients and place the second batch in the bowl next to the first. Cover the bowl again and let it rise in a warm part of the kitchen for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until doubled in size.
Let the bread rise a second time: Lightly coat the 4 x 4 x 16 inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Flatten it with the palms of your hands to form a 14 by 8 inch rectangle wit the long side facing you. Fold the top edge up and over toward you and align it to the middle of the dough. Use a pastry brush to sweep off any flour on the folded section. You don’t want raw flour inside the shaped dough.) Fold the bottom half of the dough up and align the long edge with the first fold. Crimp the dough with your fingertips to seal the seam at the top fold. Place the dough in the pan seam side down. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until it comes about 1/2 inch above the rim, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350*F.
Bake the bread for about 40 minutes, until it is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 180*F.. Turn it out onto a wire rack and let it rest for at least 30 minutes before serving. If stored in a bread bin, this bread lasts for about 2 days for sandwiches and perhaps a third day for toast.

Cathal Armstrong goes beyond just a cookbook. He tells the stories behind why he included some of the recipes, the traditions, the definitions that may be different between Irish context and American. Co-written by David Hagedorn, this is a book that warrants a spot in the kitchen to use the recipes within. The stories are great but the recipes sparkle, with tips and advice sprinkled between the recipes.

Beautiful photos make you want to dive right in and make the recipes. Easy to recommend this one!


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