Irish Soda Bread has a rough
golden brown crispy crust with a dense yet tender, slightly moist interior. It
is perfect whether sliced and slathered with butter and jam or served alongside
a hot bowl of soup or stew. Leftovers make wonderful toast. Serve Irish Soda
Bread on March
17, which is Saint Patrick's Day, a day that honors its patron saint, Saint
Patrick. It is a national holiday in Ireland. Outside of Ireland, St. Patrick's
Day is celebrated by both the Irish and non-Irish. Parades, the wearing of
green, and the eating of Irish food has become very popular as "Everyone wants
to be Irish on St. Patrick's Day".
Irish cookbook and food lore author, Maura Laverty, tells us in her lovely
book Maura Laverty's Cookery Book that while it may be known as
bread' outside Ireland, "in its native habitat soda-bread is never
so-called. We call it "cake" or "cake-bread"". In fact, soda bread
encompasses many types of quick breads; from a flat sweet griddle bread,
to brown bread, to a dark spicy treacle bread, to a currant and caraway
seed bread, to even a raisin soda bread (spotted dick or spotted dog). Yet
in its simplest form, Irish soda bread is made with just four ingredients;
flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk (sour milk). Soda bread gets its
rise, not from yeast, but from the baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
reacting with the acid (soured milk or buttermilk). There are debates
about whether Irish soda bread should be made from white or whole wheat flour,
so to satisfy both camps, this recipe uses both. We are also adding a
little sugar for sweetness and a small handful of old fashioned rolled
oats. The important thing to remember when making soda bread is to have a
quick light hand for both mixing and kneading of the dough. Once the dough
is formed into a round, a cross is cut on the top of the bread, some say
to "let the fairies out". If truth be told, the cross is really there to
keep the bread from splitting during baking and it also makes it easier to
cut the baked bread into quarters.
Irish Soda Bread contains buttermilk which has a nice thick creamy
texture with a rich tangy buttery taste that makes this bread tender.
Whereas in the past it was the liquid left over after churning butter it
is now commercially made by adding a bacteria to whole, skim, or low fat
milk. You can make your own buttermilk by adding 1 tablespoon of white
distilled vinegar, cider vinegar, or lemon juice to 1 cup of milk. Let
stand 5 to 10 minutes before using.
Bread: Preheat oven to
degrees F (190 degrees C) and place the rack in the center of the oven. Line
a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large
bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, oats, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the
center of the flour mixture and add most of the buttermilk. Using yours
hands, or a wooden spoon, mix (adding more buttermilk if necessary) until you
have a soft moist dough.
Transfer to a lightly floured surface and
dough into a 7 inch (18 cm) round that is about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick. Place
the round on your prepared
baking sheet and then, with a sharp knife or clean kitchen scissors, cut a 1/4 inch deep "X" across the
top of the bread.
for about 40 - 50 minutes or until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into
the center of the bread comes out clean. You can also test that is fully baked
by tapping the bottom of the bread -
it should sound hollow. Remove from oven. This bread is wonderful when
served warm with butter and jam. It also makes great toast.
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