Irish Soda Bread
As a kid my favorite meal for years was corned beef and cabbage. Who knows why of all the fantastic food available I had an affinity for something as lowly as corned beef but I loved it and spent most of the month of March eating it. I eventually matured beyond boiled meats to bigger and better things but I’m still a stickler for the meal around this time of year. Well somehow soda bread became entwined in this meal tradition but purely because restaurants served it with the bread basket. I found most soda breads uninspiring, stale and lacking in any flavor at all yet continued to munch away on it mindlessly as I tend to do when lost in conversation. I finally came to my senses a few years ago and set out to see if soda bread could actually be good or if I needed to just stop torturing myself with tradition. You know what? Soda Bread (the americanized version at least) is delicious when made properly and eaten fresh.
This recipe produces a crusty loaf with a tender (and slightly irresistible) middle that’s best eaten within the first day of baking it. I can’t resist a hot loaf of bread so I cut it open immediately and slather it with Paula Deen amounts of butter but the flavor does improve after a few hours.
Irish Soda Bread
Recipe adapted from Marilyn O’Reilly’s for food network
3 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch squares and slightly colder than room temperature
1 cup buttermilk, plus 2-3 tablespoons
1 cup currants
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F).
Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
2. With the mixer on low speed add the butter a few pieces at a time just to make sure it doesn’t clump together and mix until combined (will look like course crumbs). I normally sift through the mixture with my fingers afterwards to make sure there are no lumps. If you don’t have a standing mixer you can do this in a large bowl and rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers.
3. Whisk the 1 cup buttermilk and egg together and add all at once to the flour mixture. With the mixer still on low speed, beat just until combined. Turn the mixer off and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure all the flour is mixed in. Fold in the currants. The dough will be sticky, thick and lumpy-this will not be a smooth dough.
4. Dump the dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and with floured hands, shape into a round loaf. Lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife and brush with buttermilk.
5. Bake for 15 minutes then turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees (F) and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick stuck deep in the middle comes out clean. Remove the bread to a wire rack to cool. Serve within 12-24 hours.
Enjoy with butter or orange marmalade.