Sunday, March 14, 2010

Irish Soda Bread


I get into phases of baking Irish Soda Bread whenever I see buttermilk on sale at the store. The first time I’m sure I consulted a recipe, but afterwards I just tossed things together each time, tweeking this and that (especially with my whole grain obsession), making, apparently, blasphemous variations on the real thing. Or at least this is what I learned when I discovered the The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread. With St. Patrick’s Day coming up, I thought I should go back to the source and make something more or less authentic, and I discovered that:

“If your "soda bread" has raisins, it's not ‘soda bread! ‘ It's called ‘Spotted Dog’ or ‘Railway Cake!’  If it contains raisins, eggs, baking powder, sugar or shortening, it's called ‘cake,’ not ‘bread.’  All are tasty, but not traditional Irish Soda Bread! (…)  If one searches the internet using the term ‘Traditional Irish Soda Bread’ about 63,500 sites are listed. 98% of them aren't even close to being traditional.  Google ‘Irish Soda Bread’ and you will find 126,000 sites. Would ‘French Bread’ (15th century) still be ‘French Bread’ if whiskey, raisins, or other random ingredients were added to the mix?  Would Jewish Matzo (unleavened bread) used to remember the passage of the Israelites out of Egypt still be Matzo if we add raisins, butter, sugar, eggs, and even orange zest?   So why is traditional ‘Irish Soda Bread’ (19th century) turned into a dessert and labeled ‘Traditional Irish Soda Bread?’”

If you’ve been wandering through the wilderness of life for decades looking for a cause, the preservation of Irish Soda Breads seems to be a good one. Or, if you’re like me, enjoy the traditional one day and the hybrid fruits of modernity and blessed invention another day. Today I went somewhere in between, because when I'm riffin' on 'Traditional Irish Soda Bread' I DO DO DO add sweetner and raisins; dear Irish, I hope you'll absolve me. So, I used the recipe from the above society for Brown Irish Soda Bread, but I added some butter (which they allow “if you must deviate”) and some sweetener. Is it less of a travesty if I’m actually part Irish (a very, very, very small part)?

3 C whole wheat pastry flour

1 C white flour

2 Tbs butter

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

2 Tbs brown sugar

1 3/4 C buttermilk

2 Tbs molasses

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease and flour a small corning ware dish or a cake pan. If you have a food processor, combine the flours, butter, salt, baking soda and sugar and blend until mixture resembles fine crumbs. If not, use your fingers to blend the butter into the flour, then add the other ingredients. Add the buttermilk and molasses until a thick, sticky dough is formed.


Form the dough into a ball and turn into the greased pan/dish, and score the top with a knife.


Cover with the corning ware lid, or with another cake pan, and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 5-10 minutes more. Let cool in the pan 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack, and let cool 20-30 more before cutting. Here’s my slice at breakfast this morning, toasted and spilling o’er with butter and honey. No one has said yet how much of an adulteration that is, but it’s freaking good.


1 comment:

  1. Nice looking soda bread. I also went to that site and then went ahead and played around with the recipe by adding sweetener. I used agave syrup and all King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour, plus some safflower oil. Baking the bread in a casserole gave your bread a very nice shape.