Sunday, March 16, 2008

Irish American Soda Bread

I know it's a cliche to bake Irish Soda Bread on St. Patrick's Day... but I figured what the hell... when else am I going to make it? Actually, Chris and I had our St. Patrick's Day dinner -- corned beef and potatoes and carrots -- a day early since I have to work evenings this week and I threw together the Irish Soda Bread at the last minute.

I've never had Irish Soda Bread before, and I didn't actually think I would like it that much... currants and caraway seeds? yeah, doesn't sound so good to me. But I searched through my baking books and found a couple of different versions. One version actually called for Drambuie, which I don't have, otherwise that one might have been the choice for tonight. I pulled this version from my King Arthur Whole Wheat Baking book and it called for 2 cups of whole wheat flour or white whole wheat flour. I used whole wheat pastry flour since it was the most convenient, and I suspect it's one of the reasons the crumb is so soft.

The book said you're supposed to wait an hour to eat it, but I wanted to try it so we had it warm from the oven, which is probably why it crumbled on me so much. Ironically, I thought it tasted a lot like a buttermilk corn bread -- despite the fact that there is no corn in it at all. The whole wheat flour gives it the grainy texture like a corn bread made from stone ground corn meal, and the sugar and buttermilk make it slightly sweet and tangy -- just like corn bread. Overall, I liked it, but it certainly wasn't what I was expecting.

6 tbsps (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 cups whole wheat flour, traditional or white whole wheat
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup currants or golden raisins, firmly packed
2 tsps caraway seed

1 tbsp milk for glaze
1 tbsp coarse sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 325. Lightly greas an 8-inch round pan, a souffle dish, 1 1/2 quart round casserole dish or panettone pan. Whichever you choose, make sure it's sides are at least 3 inches high.

Beat together the butter and sugar in a large bowl until smooth. Add the eggs and beat on high speed until the mixture is thick and and light colored, about 2 minutes. Stir in the baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and 1 cup of the whole wheat flour. Gently beat in half of the buttermilk, then another cup of the flour. Add the remaining buttermilk and the all purpose flour, mixing until smooth. Stir in the currants and caraway seeds.

Turn the dough into the prepared pan. Drizzle the milk over it and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake the bread until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 1 hour 15 minutes. If you're using a ceramic pan, check the bread at 1 hour since it may be done sooner. Tent a sheet of foil over the top for the final 15 minutes if it appears to be browning too quickly. Remove the bread from the oven, wait about 5 minutes, then run a dull knife around the edges to loosen them, before carefully turning it out onto a rack to cool right side up. Allow the bread to cool for at least 1 hour before slicing.


Anonymous said...

i know the combo of currant/raisins with caraway seeds sounds odd, but it really works. so much so, in fact, that my picky spousal unit and the picky nephews even like it! i actually have a recipe for a yeasted version, but it doesn't have the raisins or seeds. i like the baking soda version too much for the yeasted version to move up on my list.

bjs said...

corned beef and potato and carrots, oh my god yes, I SO need to cook that soon... there's nuthin that wholesome (and corned beef is EASY to cook, to boot)!

Actually it's funny i was in whole foods earlier tonight and i very nearly picked up some soda bread for private consumption. Glad I held off.=P

bellyache just soon said...

as expected, very good! now it's time to wash that bread down with several pints of guinness and multiple cheeseburgers! (mira's gotten me hooked on the exclamation mark! thanks a lot, mira!)

Anonymous said...

another triumph, but you knew that. and just as pumpkin shouldn't be limited to one or two months, this bread shouldn't be limited to one day a year.