Irish Soda Bread

Are you still recovering from yesterday? I must admit, it isn’t a holiday that we celebrate in any special way, except that every March I get the urge to bake a loaf of soda bread and drink a Shamrock shake*.

liveseasoned_spring2014_sodabread_baked_wmFor the longest time I baked a basic soda bread sometimes with raisins sometimes without, either way not giving it much thought. Then I tasted an out-of-this world loaf from La Farine in Oakland, and ever since I’ve been on a mission to recreate it. La Farine’s version contains caraway seeds (something I never thought to include), raisins, and, at least to my tongue, it tasted sweeter than what I was accustomed to.

I haven’t been able to find a recipe for their bread, so I’ve made do with sampling from recipes I’ve found online. Today’s recipe is a variation of one found on Whipped. And remember, we usually include some tips and tricks at the end of the recipe, so read it in its entirety before starting.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/3-1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp caraway seeds
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp orange (or lemon) zest
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 3/4 cup cold butter
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp buttermilk
  • egg wash: 1 egg + 1 Tbsp water + pinch of salt

 

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the caraway seeds, raisins, and zest.
  • Cut your butter into 1/2 inch segments and add it to the dry ingredients. Using a pastry cutter or the paddle attachment on a stand mixer, incorporate the butter until the mixture becomes mealy.
  • Add 3/4 cup of the buttermilk, missing it in for about 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl, making sure to incorporate the dry ingredients that remain. Add enough additional buttermilk until the dough holds together. I used the full quantity of buttermilk, but you may use more or less depending upon humidity and how arid your ingredients are.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form into two evenly-sized disks. Score the loafs into quarters and brush  with the egg wash.
  • Bake the bread for 20-25 minutes, it should be a light brown with a shiny finish when done.

Tips and Tricks

  • If you don’t have buttermilk, you can substitute with regular milk and 1 Tbsp white vinegar or lemon juice. Mix it together and let it stand for 5 minutes before using in the recipe.
  • The original recipe called for 1/3 cup sugar, but in trying to recreate the sweetness of La Farine’s bread, I increased it to 1/2 cup. Either will work depending upon your preference.
  • The original recipe called for orange zest. I would have loved to use it, but alas, I didn’t have any fresh citrus in the house. I did, however, have some dried lemon rind that I rehydrated and used. It was delicious, but I’m craving another loaf with the orange zest.
  • Sarah here: If you’re like me and you don’t own a pastry cutter or stand mixer, hold a butter knife in each hand and cut in the butter that way.

Soda bread is such an easy bread to make, no waiting for the dough to rise or kneading required. It’s delicious hot from the oven, and even better with a pat of butter. If you have the urge to bake, I hope you’ll give this recipe a try!

*Back to the Shamrock Shake. I’m not talking about this disgustingly sweet new version that looks to be 90% neon green syrupy goop, but the old one of my childhood that was a perfectly minted shake (and even if it wasn’t made from 100% ice cream, milk, and mint, it was a good imitation). This may be the year I finally break down and make my own. [insert tiny Sarah on your shoulder chanting dooo it, dooo it!] 
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4 thoughts on “Irish Soda Bread

  1. The Chew had a great recipe that you can access on line. The featured baker cut her loaf into 5 sections, like scones, before baking….came out crisp but tender on the inside. She also put the soda into the buttermilk and let it set while she mixed the dry ingredients…she felt it was key to thoroughly hydrate the soda. When I actually make my loaf, I’ll let you know what I think.

  2. I just got word from a true Irish lass that if you want proper Irish soda bread you’ve got to use currants instead of raisins. Something to try next time. Judging from her reaction, it will make all the difference!

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