Chef Daddy Cooks Food Your Kids Will Eat, St. Patrick's Day Edition: Irish Soda Bread
March 13, 2012Posted by andrew |
Since St. Patrick's Day is this Saturday, why not celebrate by gathering the kids in the kitchen and whipping up a loaf of traditional Irish brown soda bread? It's so easy to make—and so good—that I bet you'll find yourself making it more than just on March 17.
This dense, moist bread gets its leavening from baking soda and buttermilk, hence the name. I happen to like the brown kind, made with whole wheat flour, the best, but you're welcome to use all white flour if you so choose.
So clear the decks for action in the kitchen and preheat the oven to 375º. Get out a big mixing bowl and into it put:
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 2 cups white all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 to 2-1/2 cups buttermilk
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Mix it all together to form a wet dough. Start by adding 2 cups buttermilk. If the mixture seems dry, add more. You'll need to add enough to moisten all the dry ingredients, so the amount used my vary.
Some recipes tell you to add raisins, too, but apparently this is something that is not done in Ireland, at least according to some Irish acquaintances who actually seemed personally offended at the notion of putting dried fruit in soda bread. Of course someone will come forth to tell me that their Limerick-raised great grandmother always put raisins in hers, but until that happens: no raisins!
Once it's all mixed, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it a few times until it's smooth and resembles bread dough. You should eventually come up with about an eight-inch round of dough. Grease a baking sheet, or better yet, a ten-inch cast-iron skillet and put in the dough. Brush with water—I actually used one of those plastic spray bottles to gently mist it—and sprinkle with flour, then use a sharp knife to cut a deep cross in the top of the dough. Go about one-third down into it. You can see by the photo that I got a little carried away with the flour.
Put it in the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes. If it's done, it will sound hollow when tapped. If it still needs some time, put it in for another ten minutes or so. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before serving. It's awesome slathered with some butter and some strawberry preserves, and accompanied by a hot mug of strong, milky Irish breakfast tea. Or you can use it to soak up the juices from the corned beef and cabbage you're making for St. Patrick's Day.
Yeah, I know: corned beef and cabbage isn't really Irish. It's an Irish-American substitute for the more traditional bacon and cabbage (Irish bacon is more like ham or Canadian bacon than the fatty stuff we know of as bacon here in the States). Actually, I'm kind of wrong there. Ireland apparently has a strong corned beef tradition, but historically, most of it was used to provision ships heading out of Ireland's harbors or was exported to England. To the working-class Irish, pork and bacon were cheaper and more readily available. So in a way, we're coming full circle.