Irish Soda Bread

 

 

Measured IngredientsIrish boiled dinners have long been a tradition in my house. As a matter of convenience and time management, the early years found my wife and me dining at a local pub or restaurant on St. Patrick’s Day. After all, we met in a bar and we were in our 20s then, so we felt right at home. Whether it is natural progression, or just the desire to fill our home with the savory aroma of a corned beef simmering on the stove, we made the leap from going out to staying in.

 

Our first attempts were simple. There wasn’t much to it, really. Snip the package open using care not to spill the rhubarb-colored brine all over, and gently slip the brisket into a large pot of water. I always liked the Cracker Jack part of it, you know, the little prize package of spices. Another snip and in they go. Bring the vessel to a boil, reduce the flame and let her simmer an Irish melody. In time, some potatoes and wedges of fresh cabbage would join the pool party. In keeping with the simple theme, we’d complete the meal with store-bought soda bread and a dessert. Perhaps there may have been a couple pints of stout too.

 

Plumped Raisins

 

As the years drove on, so did culinary exploration. I became curious and slightly fixated on that petite, rounded loaf of soda bread we used to buy. I say “used to” because the purchase has been abandoned for a good eight or nine years. It took about three or four recipes as well as a hybrid or two to dial in on a recipe that would make me exclaim as Goldilocks did, “Just right!” Can you tell I have storybook-aged children in the house?

 

This year is no exception. We’ll plate up a traditional Irish boiled dinner with all the trimmings. I was set to retrieve my “go to” soda bread recipe when I came upon one from the Los Angeles Times food section. While perusing the recipe, I was immediately able to recognize the differences from my tried-and-true favorite, and though the variances were few, the flavor profiles imparted by the LAT version were intriguing.

 

Cut and Mix 

My thoughts began to race. I was surprised there was a measurement of cinnamon and a combination of brown and white sugars. I saw tablespoons of butter cut into the dough, something I hadn’t done before or come across in a recipe. Did I not explore enough recipes, or the right ones? Without thinking I pointed and clicked. The whirl of the printer took its cue revving up its mechanisms like the engine of a jet plane on the tarmac. Pfffft. Pffft. Two sheets of paper emerged in the catch tray. Before the paper had time to cool from passing through the printer, the oven’s thermostat was set to 375…

 

Sliced Irish soda Bread

 

On St. Patrick’s Day, our table will be graced with our new favorite Irish soda bread. I exercised a couple of the options afforded by the LAT recipe and produced loaves of soda bread like the ones you’d probably see on a farmer’s table in the Irish countryside. The molasses aspect of the brown sugar lends a depth of flavor and yields a gorgeous brown crust laced with nooks and crannies. The scent emanating from its pores beckons you to dip hunks of the bread straight from an open jar of orange marmalade. And the cinnamon that puzzled me is a backbone of sorts, playing a supporting role much like what coffee does for chocolate. But the true benchmark of first-rate bread is its crumb—not only is the texture moist and tender, but the crumb can hold up to the swipe of a butter knife!

 

Watch the video demonstration!

 

Need a sensational finish to your St. Patrick’s Day dinner? Check out this recipe.

For a lovely egg-free version of this recipe, please see Lata Tokhi’s soda bread

 

Irish Soda Bread

Adapted recipe from the Los Angeles Times

Irish Soda Bread

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 55 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

Yield: One 8 to 9-inch round loaf

Irish Soda Bread

Grace your St. Patrick's Day table with this easy Irish Soda Bread recipe. It's terrific as a snack or toasted with orange marmalade. Try it for bread as "Irish French Toast" dipped in egg batter and prepared in the usual manner. In any case it's blarney delicious!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raisins, plumped in very hot water (and 1 jigger Irish Whiskey, optional) for 5 minutes
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour*, plus more for kneading
  • 1 cup white whole-wheat flour*
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon lightly toasted caraway seeds
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk

Instructions

  • Place the raisins in a heatproof bowl. Pour in enough piping hot water to barley cover the raisins; add the Irish whiskey if using. Soak for 5 minutes. When the raisins have finished their hot bath, drain in a strainer and set aside.
  • In a small, dry sauté pan over medium heat, add the caraway seeds for just a moment or two stirring them with a spoon. Their pungent fragrance will quickly intensify. Remove them from the pan at once; set aside to cool.
  • Preheat the oven to 375˚F.
  • Combine unbleached AP flour, white whole-wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, cinnamon and caraway seeds in a large mixing bowl. Cut butter into dry ingredients using a paddle attachment on a mixer at slow speed for several minutes. The mixture will take on the appearance of coarse meal.
  • Add egg and buttermilk; mix slowly with the paddle until dough comes together. Stir in raisins. Turn out onto a floured surface (the dough will be soft and sticky). Gently knead the dough with floured hands for about 8 to 10 turns. Let rest 10 minutes.
  • Shape into an 8 or 9-inch round; place on a parchment lined sheet pan . Score the top with a sharp knife to make a cross. Dust top with white flour. Bake until the top is brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 45-55 minutes. Remove and cool on a rack.

Notes

*King Arthur flour and Hodgson Mills are two makers of white whole-wheat flour. If the white whole-wheat variety is not readily available, substitute standard whole wheat flour. You may also bake 2 smaller 5-inch rounds from one batch; shape accordingly and check for doneness at around 40 minutes. The single larger loaf will likely bake for the longer duration.

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Comments

  1. Interesting how many irish soda recipes have baking powder now. I made it a few times but had too much bakind soda flavor, I still don´t know why. This is a much sophisticated recipe, and it turned out great! I really must try it.

    • Brooks Walker says:

      You are so right, Paula―soda bread recipes have evolved. Perhaps the measure of baking powder is a matter of modern methods and practices. I hope you’ll try the recipe and thank you for stopping by.

  2. I want to come to your house for St. Paddy’s Day! Can you believe I’ve never made corned beef? Never opened one of those briney pouches or the little spice packet. Now I feel like I’ve been missing out. I didn’t even know that it was custom to serve Irish Soda Bread with the corned beef and fixings. The bread looks and sounds delicious though.

    • Brooks Walker says:

      Christiane, you must make a corned beef! And all the trimmings. I suspect your family would really like the soda bread. May the luck of the Irish and inspiration be yours.

  3. Made this today and I’m so glad I did! It turned out to be such a hit. Thank you!

    • Brooks Walker says:

      Kendra, you are entirely welcome! I thank you for reporting back to let me know it was a hit―it’s the best kind of compliment there is.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Here to see Brooks recipe. My recipe is almost exactly the same except [...]

  2. [...] Irish Soda bread recipe I used is from the Cakewalker blog, with 3:1 bread to whole wheat flour and mixed raisins. The hint of caraway was nice. I really [...]

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