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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 04:52 pm (UTC)
Oh, I must try this; sounds delicious!

I'm also interested in the 'tea cake' kind with raisins, she says hopefully.
Mar. 14th, 2011 01:15 pm (UTC)
I don't have time to go downstairs to the kitchen and get The Bread Bible, but this is how I remember Rose's recipe...


1 scant cup raisins
1/4 cup Irish whiskey

In a small bowl (covered), soak the raisins in the whiskey for at least 1 hour, or overnight. Drain thoroughly, reserving the whiskey - you should have about 3 tablespoons.

10 tablespoons softened butter
3 tablespoons whiskey from the raisins
1 tablespoon sugar.

Mix the whiskey and sugar in a small microwaveable bowl; microwave for 20 seconds, then stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Cool completely, then blend it into the soft butter until thoroughly combined. Pack the whiskey butter into a small decorative dish, cover, and either refrigerate until shortly before serving time, or store at cool room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a cookie sheet.

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached white flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups buttermilk
Whiskey-soaked raisins

Blend the dry ingredients and work in the butter. Add the buttermilk to make a dough. Knead in the raisins as you knead the dough 8 times. Shape into a ball, slash, and bake 45 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and/or the bottom sounds hollow when thumped. Cool on a rack. Slice and serve with whiskey butter.
Mar. 14th, 2011 02:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Mar. 15th, 2011 11:16 am (UTC)
Personally, I hate raisins. But I might just make the whiskey butter anyway, without soaking raisins in the whiskey - I think it might taste interesting on the very plain soda bread.
Mar. 15th, 2011 01:53 pm (UTC)
Wonder what it would taste like with blueberries?
Mar. 15th, 2011 03:08 pm (UTC)
I don't think blueberries would go very well with whiskey (even with whiskey butter on the side), but if you leave whiskey out of the concept altogether, you'd have a nice blueberry tea bread. Cranberries, especially the dried ones, would also work, although they might need a bit more sugar.
Mar. 15th, 2011 03:19 pm (UTC)
Ok, thanks.

Then I get to thinking; blueberrries...rum?

Yes, I'm awful.

OH, cranberries! Yes, more sugar.
Mar. 15th, 2011 03:31 pm (UTC)
It wouldn't be terribly "Irish" with rum and blueberries, but it would still go nicely with tea... or rum ;-D
Mar. 15th, 2011 06:45 pm (UTC)
*hehe* True.


no ez-bake
Food Snobbery: Hardcore food.

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