Friday, March 15, 2013

Irish Soda Bread: Sweet Or Savory?

Photo by All About Food
I can't claim much Irish ancestry, but aren't we all Irish on St. Patrick's Day?  I do love meat and potatoes, Irish stew, cabbage, root vegetables and Irish soda bread.  I started making soda bread because it tastes similar to buttermilk biscuits, but you can substitute healthier ingredients: like butter instead of lard and whole grain flour in lieu of all white flour.  Soda bread is delicious served warm.  Here is my recipe:

Irish Soda Bread

For Savory
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 extra large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
1 ¼ cups buttermilk (Regular milk with a teaspoon vinegar works if you don't have buttermilk. Let it sit before pouring it in).

optional: 1/3 cup caraway seeds

For Sweet
You will add 1/3 cup sugar, 1 cup raisins. (= Irish American soda bread)

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Stir the first 5 dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
3. Mix in the beaten eggs.
4. Next incorporate the cubes of butter until you get a coarse mixture.
5. Here is where you add the sugar and raisins, if you want to sweeten your soda bread. I always opt for savory, skipping the sugar and raisins.  Does that make me a salty girl?
6. Pour in the buttermilk and mix until a dough forms.
7. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it a little bit, then shape it into a round, slightly flatten loaf.  Be careful not to over knead, or the bread will turn out tough.  Aim for a sticky dough.
8. Place the round dough on an olive oiled baking dish.  I use a cast iron skillet.
9. Cut a cross [like this +] about 1 inch deep into the dough with a sharp knife. By scoring the top, the bread bakes evenly and is easy to slice. 
10. Bake about 55 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and done in the center.  Cool, cut and eat.

Extra tips:  The soda bread for this 3 cups of flour recipe will last about a week. Sometimes I make a smaller loaf, using 1 cup wheat wheat flour to 1 cup of all purpose flour (also reducing the other ingredients); or make a bigger loaf, using 2 cups of wheat wheat to 2 cups of all purpose flour (and increasing the remaining ingredients proportionally).  

Usually I sprinkle the top with raw oatmeal (and a sprinkle of salt) before baking. Brush the top with butter or milk to give the oatmeal a wet surface so it sticks. Sometimes I toss 1/3 cup of caraway seeds into the batter -- provided my guests like caraway seeds (Delish!).  

Have a Happy St. Patrick's Day.
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