Yesterday afternoon in the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day I made Irish Soda Bread. Consulting my favorite online recipe source, Epicurious.com, I discovered a fascinating article called “The Great Irish Soda Bread Debate”, which discusses true Irish Soda bread and its many variations. According to its author, Irish chef Rory O’Connell, authentic Irish Soda Bread has very few ingredients: just flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. Recipes with eggs, butter or fruit are not the norm, but may be found on special occasions.
I decided to go the authentic route and made the “White Soda Bread” recipe on Epicurious. The bread is super-easy to make since it has few ingredients, does not rise and only cooks for 35 minutes. I left out the caraway seeds because I did not have any on hand and substituted half whole-wheat flour for white flour. If you are substituting whole-wheat flour, you may need to add more buttermilk to attain the right consistency. I also took Rory O’Connell’s advice of not overworking the dough (it was a bit crumbly but still held together) and was really happy with the tenderness of bread. The house smelled delicious as the bread cooked and I could not wait until our corned beef and cabbage dinner to try some. Sure enough, it was delicious smeared with butter. I am excited to make this bread again and try some of the other variations on the Epicurious site.
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I used 1 3/4 white flour, 1 3/4 whole-wheat flour)
2 tablespoons caraway seeds (optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups – 2 cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly flour baking sheet. Mix flour, caraway seeds, if using, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Mix in enough buttermilk to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball. Turn out onto lightly flour surfaced and knead just until dough holds together, about 1 minute. Shape dough into 6-inch-diameter by 2-inch-high round. Place on prepared baking sheet. Cut 1-inch-deep X across top of bread, extending almost to edges. Bake until bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, about 35 minutes. Transfer bread to rack and cool completely.
Note: Read the Reviews of the recipe on the Epicurious website! They often provide helpful clues as to where a recipe needs special attention or what variations were successful (or not). I was rather amused to learn on the Corned Beef and Cabbage reviews that St. Patrick should be shortened to “St. Paddy” rather than “St. Patty” because Paddy refers to a male while Patty refers to a female. Oh the things you can learn on the internet!