I am pretty big into baking. I love to start a day off with some fresh scones or whip up jalapeño cornbread for dinner. I do make yeast breads, but I spend most of my baking time making “quick” breads, those baked yummies that rely on baking powder and/or soda for leavening rather than the full action of yeast. One thing that I make everywhere I go is pancakes, which, while not baking, certainly relies on the same technique for getting that fluff. I have a basic recipe that just lives in my head and I can pull it together just about anywhere if I can get at the ingredients. When I first got to Ireland I was given pause though, because the flour in the kitchen was self-rising flour. I frowned. I’ll mix my own leavening, thank-you-very-much. So, I went down to the store to get some “regular” flour and I discovered that in Ireland, self-rising is the norm. Whoa. I had to hunt around for anything that didn’t say self-rising, and even when I did find that, I needed to read the ingredients because they would still have baking soda in them.
I guess this makes sense in a land of soda bread. Why bother measuring and mixing the same things every time you go to make the same bread that is typically made? In a culture of quick bread, they are just cutting out the extra step that most everyone needs to do. I figure this is like Bisquick becoming the standard “flour” in US (which for some people it is I suppose). I decided to give in and try using the Irish standard. It worked out OK, once I sorted out how much “self-rise” was in there and then I could add a bit when I needed more. I never did get comfortable with the idea of pre-mixed flour though. I didn’t manage to do much cooking since I was only there for a month, so I didn’t play with how that would effect other cooking that doesn’t want any leavening mixed in. The idea still gives me a little bit of the kitchen heebee-jeebees. Now that I’m in Copenhagen, I haven’t even seen self-rising flour, which suits me just fine. Starting with base ingredients and building up a recipe gives me more control and let’s me fine tune not only my cooking, but the learning process as well.