Monday, April 05, 2010

Irish Soda Bread

Nearly every year, when I was growing up, my mom prepared this bread for St. Patrick's Day. I recall demanding it more often, but I can't remember if she caved-in to my demands or not.

When I started playing in the kitchen routinely, this was one of the first recipes that I hunted through her recipe box for. When I lived in England, I found that Mark's & Spencer sold a soda bread that satisfied my needs similarly, but it wasn't quite right. This recipe is the quintessential soda bread for me, partly because of the twist that my mom put on it.

Normal soda breads call for the addition of caraway seeds and raisins, but my mom added orange zest and orange extract instead. Sometimes I make a simple orange glaze to go on the top of the bread. I have brought a loaf to school a few times and shared it with my students. It received the high school student seal of approval.

Irish soda bread
  • 3 ½ to 4 cups unbleached flour (or use 2 ½ cups whole wheat flour plus 1 cup unbleached)
  • ½ to ¾ cup raw or brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ¼ cups buttermilk (or regular milk soured with 1 teaspoon vinegar)
  • ½ cup golden raisins or currants (optional)
  • 1-2 teaspoon dried caraway seeds (optional)
  • *1 teaspoon orange extract (alternate version)
  • *2 teaspoon orange zest (alternate version)
  1. Preheat oven to 375F/190C
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda.
  3. Cut the butter into the flour mixture, using two knives or a pastry cutter, until crumbly.
  4. Add egg and buttermilk (*extract and zest if making orange version). Mix until moistened. The dough will be stiff. Add raisins or currants and caraway seeds, working into the dough.
  5. Form into a round loaf on a greased baking sheet, adding more flour as necessary. Use a knife to cut a spiral or cross on the top, if you wish.
  6. Bake one hour. Best served warm, and eaten the same day you bake it.

The past few times that I have made the bread, it hasn't risen appropriately (evil oven perhaps?), so I made a few adjustments to the recipe, and am proud to say that this bread rose like a dream. Also, this time, due to J's insistence, I left out most of the orange (no zest, just a bit of extract) and added the caraway seeds. Oh, he was right. They really did add a new dimension to the bread, and I didn't find myself missing the orange at all. Perhaps next year, I will just have to make both.

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