Friday, March 15, 2013

Irish Soda Bread: Sweet Or Savory?

Photo by All About Food
I can't claim any 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
Ingredients:
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
1 ¼ cups buttermilk - I use low fat (1.5% milkfat).

For Sweet
You will add ½ cup sugar, 1 cup raisins. (= Irish American soda bread)

Directions:
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:  Soda bread is tasty fresh out of the oven, so I often split the dough into two loaves, bake one and wrap the other in aluminum foil, freezing it for another day.  On a busy day, I just pop the frozen one into the oven and bake.  Voilà, fresh bread without the work!  At times, I will sprinkle the tops with raw oatmeal before baking.  For savory soda bread, I like to 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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