Irish Soda Bread: The Luck of the Irish but the Dread of the Bread

Our beloved Soda Bread with slice taken out -- she couldn't help herself...

My daughter has become obsessed with all things Irish – including the vanishing language Gaelic, jigs and reels, and of course, the dreaded dense and dry soda bread. Being raised in an Italian family, the culinary traditions of the Irish are completely foreign to me, however, being a typical mother that wants to encourage her child’s interest in culture and art, I have been baking and adjusting Irish Soda Bread recipes for the past few month. I’ve paged through all of my cookbooks, searched the internet late into the night, steeped currants in whisky, driven miles for the best flour, only to find that the most simple approach produces the most satisfying loaf.

I have finally arrived at a recipe that I find to be rather palatable and that goes well with the many soups I prepare. Now, I’m not promising to win any baking contests with this recipe, but I do hope you give it try with your favorite soup or stew. And please don’t overthink it and by all means don’t overwork the dough — it’s very very easy and quick. If you start up the oven and then prepare the dough, the oven will be ready at the same time you finish preparing a simple soup. I find that the bread is best if the dough is little tacky and very moist, so I usually use 1-3/4 cups of buttermilk. I also like to brush it with about 1 tablespoon of melted butter after immediately removing it from the oven — just a wee bit of butter. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Providence’s Favorite Irish Soda Bread

Heat oven to 450 degrees F.

2 cups White Whole Wheat Flour

1 ½ cups all-purpose unbleached flour

¾ teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

1 ½ to 1 ¾ cups of well-shaken buttermilk

In a large baking bowl whisk together all dry ingredients. Make well in center and pour in buttermilk. Using fingertips, blend all ingredients in a circular motion until it just comes together. Don’t overwork or excessively knead the dough or bread will be tough. Place dough on parchment paper on baking sheet and pat into a ½ inch thick circle. Use a sharp knife to score a deep criss-cross across loaf – about ¼ inch deep.

Bake loaf for 15 minutes at 450 degrees F and then lower oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Bake for another 20 minutes until bread is golden and sounds hollow when tapped.

Serve warm with butter to accompany stews and soups.

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