Irish Soda Bread To Make Irish Eyes Smile

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Today is the day most Americans celebrate their Irish roots or are Irish for the day.  Like most Americans my ethnicity is mixed and I can proudly rattle off my six different ethnicities.  Yet, out of all of them my Irish background can claim the most branches in my family tree. In fact my husband and I are both very Irish, he just looks it and I do not.  How Irish? Kilts worn for our wedding-Jameson and Guinness drinking-own an Irish Wolfhound Paddy (named for a fallen firefighter, not St. Paddy)-claddaugh ring wearing Irish-American, that’s how Irish.

In my attempt to learn how to cook over the past year or so I’ve noticed that my Irish branch of the family tree did not pass on family recipes, they’ve been lost. So I don’t have a recipe tied to family memories or a story, but what I do have is this delicious and easy to make Irish Soda Bread recipe I found a few days ago on Food52.com. Have you checked out Food52 yet? You should, they have some great recipes. The recipe which caught my eye on Food52.com was Peggy’s Authentic Irish Soda Bread and this is her Grandmother’s recipe and she does include a little family story to go with it on the website. I added a few tips and notes from my experience trying out the recipe.

Peggy’s  recipe is very easy to make and the bread was a hit with my entire family. Along with my kitchen smelling of sweet bread baking, the bread itself is the taste and consistency you would expect from an Irish Soda Bread; almost a cake-like bread, the buttermilk ensures the bread is moist and chewy. I no longer need to purchase Irish Soda Bread each year, I now have this recipe to make my own!    

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

Ingredients:

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  • 1-1/2 cup buttermilk, cold (you may need a little less or more)
  • 2 large eggs, cold
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 cups all-purpose, unbleached white flour, plus another 1/4 cup for dusting. (Peggy recommends any all-purpose, unbleached flour is fine but King Arthur’s all-purpose unbleached flour (not cake flour) seems to work well)
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon iodized salt (table salt)
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, COLD, cut into smaller chunks, plus a few extra tablespoons for greasing baking dish
  • 1-1/2 cup dark seedless raisins (can substitute seedless golden raisins or dried cranberries)

Equipment:

One 10- or 11-inch round, ceramic or glass baking dish. (Peggy says: a round, straight-sided dish is best (not a pie dish with slanted sides). You could substitute a metal cake pan but not a very dark metal non-stick pan, because the top will likely burn before the interior of the loaf is cooked.)

I used a 9.5 in deep pie dish I had at home and it worked just fine.

Directions:

1.Position oven rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 375 F. Use the “extra” butter to generously grease the baking dish. Dust the baking dish with flour: scatter a small handful of flour inside the dish and shake it around so that bottom and sides are coated. Turn dish over and tap out any excess flour.

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2. Pour 1 1/2 cups buttermilk into a medium bowl or measuring cup.

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3. Break eggs into buttermilk and whisk with a fork to just combine. (I used a wisk)

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4. Add 1 tsp. baking soda and whisk to just combine. Set aside.

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5. In a large bowl, whisk together the 4 cups flour, 4 tsp baking powder, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1 tsp salt.

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6. Scatter 6 tablespoons of COLD butter over the flour mixture.

(I cut each tablespoon of butter into smaller pieces before adding it to the bowl)

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7. Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter or, if you don’t have one, use two table knives in a criss-cross motion from edge-to-edge of the bowl to cut in the butter. The butter should be visible in small bits throughout the flour, not completely absorbed.

(The two knives in a criss-cross motion works somewhat, I broke apart some pieces with my fingers quickly, careful not to warm up the butter).

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8. Gently stir in the raisins.

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9. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour 1 cup of the buttermilk mixture into the well. Stir gently with wooden spoon (do not use your hands) until flour is moistened.

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10. Use a spatula to gently fold any dry flour from the sides and bottom into the wetter dough. (Fold gently, don’t whip the dough or over-stir.)

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11. Add more of the buttermilk mixture as needed, in small amounts, to create a dough that is neither too wet or too dry. The dough should be lumpy and more wet than dry.

You may need more or less than the 1-1/2 cups buttermilk called for. If you need more liquid, plain buttermilk is fine.

(I added about another 1/4 cup of plain buttermilk to get the right consistency.)

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12. With a little flour on your hands shape the dough quickly and roughly into a ball, without over-handling it. Transfer dough ball to the greased and floured baking dish.

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13. Use the back of the wooden spoon to spread dough in as few strokes as possible to edges of dish.

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14. Use the handle end of the wooden spoon or your index finger to make a shallow cross (1/4 inch deep) on top of the dough, top to bottom and side to side. This is to encourage the bread to rise in quarters for easier slicing. (I used the handle end of my wooden spoon)

Very lightly scatter a tiny bit of flour over the dough.

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15. Bake for about 45 minutes. Check after 40 minutes: bread should be golden brown and look set. Test by inserting a knife in the center of the bread. If there is wet dough on the knife, bake for up to 10-15 minutes more. Do not over-bake.

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16. Remove from oven and let bread cool in baking dish about 10 minutes. Remove from baking dish and let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. (It will crumble if you try to slice when still warm.) Keeps very well for a few days, wrapped tightly in foil or plastic wrap. (I put mine in a large ziploc bag.)

 

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TIPS: The center of my bread took a little longer to cook than I expected and I believe it was because I didn’t evenly flatten out the dough when spreading it in the dish before baking, and also the reason the top of the bread is a little more golden then I prefer.

I let the bread cool completely before cutting it, as the directions advise. Also, I sealed it in a large ziploc bag and it stayed fresh for a few days.

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