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So my son the foodie is planning a corned-beef-and-cabbage dinner for some friends on St. Patrick's Day, and he called me and asked me for a recipe for Irish soda bread. The first one that sprang to mind was the one in Rose Levy Beranbaum's Bread Bible, which includes baking powder, sugar, butter, and raisins soaked in Irish whiskey. However, I didn't think this would go very well with a savory meal of corned beef and cabbage, so I Googled for other recipes to compare... and found this. Basically, back in Ireland in the 19th century, if it had butter, sugar, raisins, etc., in it, it was considered a "tea cake", not bread. With a bit more research, I put together the following recipe:


Preheat the oven to 425° F. Grease a large cookie sheet.

4 cups whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk

Stir the dry ingredients together until well mixed. Make a well in the center and stir in the buttermilk, until the mixture comes together. Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it 8 times, just enough to make sure it's all one coherent mass. Shape it into a slightly flattened ball about 7" in diameter. With a sharp, non-serrated blade, make a slash about 1/2" deep all the way across the loaf, then another one at right angles to it. (This allows the bread to expand without cracking, and has nothing particularly to do with religion.) Bake at 425° F.for 15 minutes; reduce heat to 350° F. and continue baking for another 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck into the center of the loaf comes out clean, or until the bread sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom. Cool on a wire rack. Allow to stand at least 6 hours at room temperature for best flavor and texture.

Of course, I had to try this out before I passed along the recipe. I made half a batch; I used King Arthur "white whole wheat" flour, and instead of liquid buttermilk, I used SaCo powdered buttermilk, blending it with the dry ingredients, and adding plain water as the liquid. I baked it for 10 minutes at 425° F. and 35 minutes at 350° F.

Now, I'm not a great fan of whole wheat, and I expected this to be dense, crumbly and/or chewy, and coarse-tasting. But when I cut a slice and buttered it, I discovered that it's DELICIOUS! Before I knew it, I'd eaten half the little loaf! It's close-textured and sturdy, but neither crumbly nor chewy, with a good crunchy crust, and the flavor is earthy and wholesome. And it's drop-dead easy to make.


Mar. 13th, 2011 03:51 pm (UTC)
I think I must try this recipe.
I've had Irish soda bread (which I loved) and I've had stuff that they called Irish soda bread (which tasted strongly of soda and was fed to the birds - not even worth saving for bread crumbs!) From looking at the recipe, this is probably the stuff I love.
Mar. 13th, 2011 04:12 pm (UTC)
Well, there's the "tea cake" kind that has raisins, and sometimes even candied orange peel, in a somewhat sweet dough. This isn't anything like that. But the acid in the buttermilk reacts completely with the soda, so the bread doesn't taste of either one very much. What it mostly tastes of is wheat. And it's not much more difficult to make than a cup of tea ;-)


no ez-bake
Food Snobbery: Hardcore food.

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