Revisiting Irish Soda Bread

It seems my food writing has taken a back seat to cooking these days.  There never seems to be enough hours in the week to get it all done.  Busy is always better, so I am not complaining!  This week I decided to play around with a couple of Irish soda bread recipes.  As with every recipe experiment I look for the most authentic base recipe and build from there.  Let me just say, there are more Irish soda bread recipes out there than you can shake a stick at!  I found this site: Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread which has some really fun and interesting tidbits about soda bread.

Essentially basic Irish soda bread is made with four ingredients: flour, buttermilk (sour milk back in the day), baking soda and salt.  The addition of raisins, sugar or seeds render it a tea cake, according to the purists.  My search lead me to two renowned chefs in Ireland, Darina Allen, of Ballymaloe Cookery School and Lesley Keogh, of The Cliffs, soda bread recipe. My recipe below is something of a hybrid to their two.

Let me say up front I dislike baking.  I see it as a necessary evil when cooking and catering.  Mainly because of the precise measuring of ingredients.  There is no way around it, so that is the end of my rant.  If you want your baked items to work, you have to put in the time.  If possible don’t skip on the necessary tools either.  Get yourself an inexpensive food scale.  I invested in a slightly more expensive one by OXO and it’s lasted me for many many years.  Never the less, the basic will do you just fine.  Then make sure you have dry and wet measuring cups.  (Yes, that makes a difference too!)  Here is a splendid tutorial by Serious Eats that will fill in the blanks.

 

Now for the ingredients.  My first batch I went Irish all the way.  Odlums Flour and Kerrygold Butter.  Odlums can be found at your local Irish grocery and Kerrygold pretty much all over now.  At the suggestion of Ms. Allen I added butter to my flour because I was using low fat buttermilk. (I ended up doing that with every batch.)  One ounce or two tablespoons of cold butter cut into small cubes and then worked into the dry ingredients with my fingers, until the flour felt a little like sand.  This would be the time to check the expiration date on your baking soda.  It won’t work if it’s expired.  Don’t even bother.  Go out and get a fresh box.  The buttermilk was at room temperature for all batches and after the first try I decided to add brown sugar.  Yes, yes, I know … not authentic, but I preferred having a wee bit of sweetness.  Then with my final batch I decided to add in some golden raisins.   Let’s just call that one my breakfast batch!

  

Irish soda bread is a perfect vehicle for a creamy slather of sweet butter and jam, or cream cheese and smoked salmon topped with a little dill.  Either way, it’s a very easy bread to make for breakfast or dinner.  Wrap the leftovers (if any) tightly and finish up the next day.

Buon appetito!

Maria’s Irish Soda Bread (Irish ingredients)
Makes one loaf

8 oz. Odlum’s self-raising flour, about 3/4 cup
8 oz. Odlum’s extra coarse whole meal flour, about 1 1/2 cups
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons brown sugar
1 ounce of cold sweet Kerrygold butter cubed, about 2 tablespoons
12 oz. lowfat buttermilk, about 1 3/4 cups

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a baking sheet.
  2. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix well with a wire whisk.
  3. Using your fingers incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients until if feels like dry sand.
  4. Add in the buttermilk a little at a time and combine with a large spatula. Once it’s mixed in knead the dough a little. It should be slightly sticky but not really wet. Adding in the buttermilk slowly will help achieve the right feel.
  5. Form into a nice symmetrical loaf and pat down the top a little. Cut a cross on the top and place in the oven. Set your timer and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes turn the loaf upside down on the sheet pan, turn off the oven and let it sit for another 5 minutes.
  6. Remove and cool on a rack.

Maria’s Irish Soda Bread (basic ingredients)
Makes one loaf

8 oz. King Arthur’s 100% organic whole wheat flour, about 1 1/2 cups
8 oz. all purpose flour, about 1 1/2 cups plus 1-2 tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons brown sugar
1 ounce of cold sweet butter cubed, about 2 tablespoons
12 oz. lowfat buttermilk, about 1 3/4 cups
1/2 cup golden raisins, optional

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly spray a baking sheet.
  2. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix well with a wire whisk.
  3. Using your fingers incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients until if feels like dry sand.
  4. Add in the buttermilk a little at a time and combine with a large spatula. Once it’s mixed in knead the dough a little. If using add in the golden raisins now. It should be slightly sticky but not really wet. Adding in the buttermilk slowly will help achieve the right feel.
  5. Form into a nice symmetrical loaf and pat down the top a little. Cut a cross on the top and place in the oven. Set your timer and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes turn the loaf upside down on the sheet pan, turn off the oven and let it sit for another 5 minutes.
  6. Remove and cool on a rack.

Cook’s note: About turning over the loaf at the end – I read that in my research and figured why not? So I did it with all of my batches.

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. Kathy says:

    Forgot the caraway seeds – Best part!!

    1. Maria Reina says:

      Ah … well, for it to be a true Irish soda bread there should not be raisins or caraway seeds … not even sugar! Once you start adding all of that they refer to it as a “tea cake.” Please do try this recipe. It’s really delicious with sweet butter and a good jam.

  2. KR says:

    Thank you for sharing, This is very similar to Estonian Karask 🙂 It seems to me that nothing new in this world 🙂 🙂

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