Sunday, October 23, 2011

Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

Okay, okay, so to eat this Irish Soda Bread, technically you have to slice up the loaf.  Semantics.  Prior to tonight, I had never had nor really thought much about Irish Soda Bread.  I've read books, plays, and the like that mentioned it, but it never really occurred to me to try making it.  Let me just say, "Thank goodness I finally did." Because, yum. I got this recipe from the back of Karen Marie Moning's Dreamfever, though I did alter some ingredients and procedures to make it better. (I also left out the book's call for wriggling Unseelie flesh.  You're welcome). Irish Soda Bread is a thick bread, leavened (made to rise) by using baking soda rather than yeast.  Traditionally the bread simply consists of the base bread; however, additions of items like raisins or nuts can be made, as you see here.  I imagine that the bread would go really well with a nice stew, since the thickness would help sop up any broth.

What You'll Need
Large mixing bowl                                                        2 butter knives
Whisk                                                                            Small bowl
Measuring cups                                                             Wooden mixing spoon
Measuring spoons                                                          Large cast iron skillet
4 cups all-purpose flour, + some for shaping              4 Tbsp butter (1/2 stick)
2 Tbsp sugar                                                                 1 cup raisins
1 tsp salt                                                                        1 large egg
1 tsp baking soda                                                          1 3/4 cup buttermilk

Now Let's Make Irish Soda Bread
Whisk away
To begin, preheat the oven to 425F. Take your large mixing bowl and add the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Whisk these ingredients together until evenly smooth in texture.  You can also use a sifter and sift them together, but whisking is just as effective with a lot less hassle and is less bulky.

Cut the butter into large chunks and soften it very slightly (about 10 seconds in a microwave if it wasn't already softened). Plop that into the flour mixture. Now, if you happen to have a pastry cutter around use that (fancy pants), otherwise, cut the butter into the flour mixture using your two butter knives.  When you get frustrated with that smash the butter into the flour mixture using the whisk (cause those wires are about the same as a pastry cutter, let's face it). When you're done, run your fingers through the mixture to make sure you've taken care of any large chunks of butter.  The flour mixture should now have a course meal texture (also known as chunky flour).

Once your butter is sufficiently cut in, add the raisins to the bowl and mix them in using your hands (if you're squeamish about sticking your hand - clean I hope - in food, you'll need to get over it quick; it only gets messier).

Crack an egg into your small bowl and beat the egg.  Add this to the flour along with the buttermilk.  Stir with your wooden spoon until all the flour is mixed in and dough is stiff.  Lightly flour your hands and begin to gently work the dough into a ball shape.  Do NOT knead the dough; if you over work it the soda bread will be tough. (unless of course you like to nosh on concrete) If the dough is too wet to work, gradually add small amounts of flour, working it in with your hands gently until dough is workable.  Keep in mind that you may need to wash the dough off your hands to form it completely, since the dough will stick to the dough on your hands rather than shaping.

When ready, remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a lightly floured surface (aka counter). Shape the dough into a round loaf.  Grease the cast iron skillet using what remains of your stick of butter. Just use the stick to do it, don't grease it with the whole thing). Rub the butter on both the base and sides of the skillet, but do not coat too heavily.  Place your dough in the center of the greased skillet.  Using one of your butter knives, score the top of the loaf in the shape of an X in order to open the loaf and allow the center to cook through.

Irish Soda Bread
Bake the loaf at 425F for 40-50 minutes until the bread is golden brown. You can tell if it is done by inserting a knife into the center; if it comes out clean, your soda bread is cooked.  Serve in slices with butter or along with a stew.  I for one, will be serving it next week along with Brunswich Stew. (Not the exact same loaf! Blegh.)  Mmmmmmm.  What would you serve it with?

Presented by my fabulous assistant



  1. Well, aren't I just cute.

    As the "lovely assistant," I can attest to the bread deliciousness. It tastes great on its own, but I echo Haley's thought that the bread would also pair nicely with a stew. Also, butter and jam would also be a tasty addition. (I'm a gal of simple tastes, though.)

  2. Going to the store right now. I'll get raisins. And more butter. The egg will be supplied by my chickens. Very cool! And thanks for leaving out the Uneelie flesh.

  3. Wait...I need buttermilk???? Ugh. That's almost as bad as Unseelie flesh. Well, maybe not. My mom used to drink that stuff. Okay, fine, I'll try it.

  4. Buttermilk is essential and not gross at all when used in cooking. Although, I have to agree on the drinking part. Blegh.

  5. Making this along with my vegetable beef soup, which my whole family loves, btw. If you want the recipe, let me know.

  6. I just might want it. I like recipes with family history the bestest. I'm doing Pumpkin pie tonight, fyi. I hope your bread turns out nicely.

  7. It was yummy and a big hit wtih those who ate it!


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