Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Recipe: Irish Soda Bread

It's nearly St Patrick's Day, so what could be more fun than making something Irish? I love that it doesn't really matter if a person is Irish or not, we all get to celebrate together. Good thing for me, since I'm pretty sure I don't have an ounce of Irish in me. Pete spent a month in Ireland during college, so he's told me that someday he'll take me trekking there as well. Tomorrow maybe? To celebrate the memorable saint? I'll dream of it.

Okay, the bread. This stuff if delish and super easy. Basically, it's mixing everything together in a bowl, plopping it on a cookie sheet, and baking it. Simple! And then you can say you've eaten something Irish. Actually, soda bread comes from lots of countries. I did a little reading (I'm on spring break so I've got the time!) and found a few things about the Irish version. One, it doesn't use yeast because the weather in Ireland doesn't allow for the kind of wheat to grow that mixes well with yeast. Therefore, soda bread uses soda, which we know as baking soda. Second, Irish soda bread doesn't contain fruit. They call it something different when it has fruit. I'm not sure why Martha's recipe (below) has raisins, but it does make it pretty tasty, so I left them in. Third, the cross is cut into the top to allow the bread to stretch while it's baking. If you want to learn more, this soda bread site is a good one to start with.

As I mentioned, this is a recipe from Martha. I found it in her baking handbook, but it can also be found here on her website.

4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
2 cups golden or dark raisins
1 large whole egg, plus 1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 scant cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, caraway seeds, baking powder and salt until well combined. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with a few larger clumps remaining Fold in the raisins.

In a bowl, whisk together the whole egg, buttermilk, and baking soda until combined. Pour egg mixture into the flour mixture; using a rubber spatula, fold in, working in all directions and incorporating crumbs at the bottom of the bowl, until the dough just comes together. With your hands, form dough into a round, domed loaf, about 8 inches in diameter. Gently lift dough from the bowl, and place on the prepared sheet.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolk with the cream; brush over the loaf. With a sharp knife, cut a cross, about 3/4 inch deep, in the center of the top of the loaf. Bake, rotating the sheet halfway through, until deep golden brown and a cake tester (toothpick) inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool completely. Irish Soda Bread is best eaten the day it is baked, but it can be kept at room temperature, wrapped well in plastic.


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