Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I’ve got a wee bit of the ol’ Irish blood in my veins, so I don’t have to completely pretend I’m Irish today. Every year, my family celebrates St. Paddy’s Day by wearing green, eating corned beef and cabbage, and watching Darby O’Gill and the Little People. You know, the typical stuff. All of this makes for a fun day, but I’m not entirely satisfied. There’s so much more to Ireland’s rich history than Leprechauns. That’s where The Secret of Kells comes in. The movie is perfect any other day of the year too, but it fits so well with today. It’s a nice peek into Ireland’s days of yore when Vikings pillaged through the country and The Book of Kells was just a work in progress. Instead of a pot of gold, we’re given an illuminated manuscript and a brief glance at how these beauties were brought to life. And just because there are no little people doesn’t mean this movie is lacking in Irish magic. I’m kind of a sucker for forest spirits and fairies, so of course I love Aisling. Now all we need is some food.
I’m kind of drawing at straws here, but I’m making it work. The only food that stands out is the humble meal of bread and cheese Abbot Cellach sends to Brendan, who’s supposed to be locked in his room. This gave me an excuse to go into super research mode to find out just what was eaten back in about 9th Century Ireland. Long before the Irish grew their first potato, they had mostly bread and water. So I pulled together my findings and made an “authentic” loaf of bread. Although tasty, it didn’t look a thing like the bread in the movie. So I changed stuff up and modernized it a bit and created my take on Irish buttermilk oat bread.
Recipe makes one 9-inch loaf of bread
½ cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)
1 teaspoon yeast
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
¾ cup buttermilk
½ cup oat flour or ground rolled oats
2 ½ cups bread flour
1 egg plus a tablespoon of water for egg wash
In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in the warm water. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes, or until foamy. In a large bowl, combine bread flour, oat flour, and salt. Add the butter, buttermilk, and yeast mixture and combine. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 15 minutes. Form the dough into a ball again and place in a large, clean bowl. Lightly coat dough with oil and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until it has doubled in size. Punch down the dough and shape into a loaf. Place the dough into a greased loaf pan, cover, and let rise for another hour.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Beat the egg and water and brush the dough with the egg wash. Bake loaf for 40-45 minutes. Place the pan on a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes. Turn the bread out and let rest on a rack until completely cooled. Enjoy it straight away or pair it with your favorite cheese and drink!
This bread is simple and lovely, just like The Secret of Kells. Brendan’s not fighting to get beyond the walls of Kells because he’s being rebellious or reckless. He just wants to help Brother Aidan finish The Book of Iona and be artistic. And Cellach only reprimands Brendan because he wants to protect him. (We all know how this goes.) The movie has so much charm and creatively hints at the history of something that has left an impact on so many people. Without a doubt, The Secret of Kells has earned its place, along with this bread, as a part of my St. Patrick’s Day traditions.
Tune in next week for more Cartoon Cravings!