Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread

Today I had a very real lesson in the value of a good night's sleep. It wasn't pretty.

For the last month, I've neglected to mention that I started working at a patisserie. While I love making pastries for people, I don't love getting up at five in the morning to do it. Oh, the joy of a baker's hours! It has taken awhile, but I can successfully pull myself out of bed at precisely 5:12 am (so long as I immediately turn on the light. A few seconds too late and I'll find myself sleeping like a baby right through the workday). The only problem is that I can't seem to get myself to bed before eleven.

Less than six hours of sleep every night, for a month, leaves a mark. It usually takes the form of a nasty burn from a cupcake pan or a gash from a bagel knife.

Today my lack of sleep finally caught up with me. I had the mother of all off days. I forgot to put on my apron and only remembered after I spilled flour down my front (may it be known that I am ever graceful.). I dropped pans with horrific clanging. I charred bagels to a gorgeous shade of ash. I often wandered around having completely forgotten what I was meant to be doing or what tool I was trying to find.

Though that last one happens more often than I'd care to admit.

Perhaps worst of all, I went to reheat some chocolate in the microwave. After setting the timer for 30 seconds, I went back to work. After a good bit of time had passed, my coworker let out a yell as plumes of black smoke poured out the microwave. Apparently I hadn't set the timer to 30 seconds, as I had thought. Lord knows what I actually set it to.

The patisserie filled with a thick, hazy smoke. Many a coughing fit was had. Customers walked in very concerned that something was on fire and we hadn't noticed ("Is everything okay back there? Are you sure?... Are you sure you're sure?"). My coworker commented she had never seen chocolate so burnt.

Not getting enough sleep means burning chocolate. It means hurting yourself with hot and sharp kitchen tools. It means wasting time wandering around in mass confusion. It means burning pastries and messing up recipes. It means being exhausted all day, every day.

While getting to bed at a reasonable hour is hard (a month later and I'm still working at it), I've learned that getting sleep is actually important (who knew?). So, if you'll excuse me, I think I hear my pillows are calling me. It's must be time for bed.

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Luckily, this Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread is so simple to make even a sleep-deprived person couldn't mess it up. True story. Soda bread, if you've never made it for yourself, is a quick bread that rises without needing yeast. The bread itself reminds me of a biscuit—crumbly, dense, and ever so sweet. This tender bread is perfect served with jam for breakfast or a thick spread of butter as a side with dinner.

One Year Ago: Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes

Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread

Yields 1 loaf

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2/3 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients to form a soft dough. Shape dough into a ball, place onto prepared baking sheet, and flatten the top. Using a sharp knife, cut a 1/2-inch deep cross into the top of the loaf. Dust lightly with flour. Bake for 25-28 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Serve with a spread of butter or jam.