Sunday, March 17, 2013

Irish Soda Bread

     Hi everyone! Happy St. Patrick's Day! 
     I just came back from NYLSC today, which is a conference where I learned how to be a good leader and stuff.  That may not sound too fun, but I met so many great people and gained so much valuable information there!
     One thing I really missed though was home cooking.  Not that the food was bad (it was pretty good!).       It was like college food, I guess, and I now understand why college students are always so eager to get some homemade food.
      And now back to St. Patrick's Day.  Fun fact:  I'm an eighth Irish!  So, of course I'm going to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.  It's always been a favorite holiday of mine.  I remember believing in leprechauns, dressing all in green, and eating a bunch of green food on this special day when I was younger.  Having a green food party is actually a pretty clever way to convince kids to eat vegetables.
      Today I tried making some genuine Irish soda bread for the first time.  It uses baking soda and buttermilk to make it rise, which is pretty cool.  And it only uses 4 ingredients and doesn't need any proofing time.  Sounds pretty good already.
       Of course you can jazz up this traditional bread by adding raisins, chocolate chips, herbs, sun-dried tomatoes, or anything else.  Today, though, I just wanted to experience the classic bread which has been made in Ireland for hundreds of years.
       Here's what you do:
Mix together the dry ingredients and make a well shape.
Pour in the buttermilk 

Mix with one hand just until a soft  dough starts to form and the milk is absorbed.
Place dough on a well-floured surface
Flip it over so the floured part is on top
Score it with a sharp knife so that there is a 1/4" deep X .
Bake it until it's brown and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. 

     Here are some useful tips:

  1. Make sure the oven is preheated before the dough is ready.  As soon as you mix the buttermilk and baking soda together, they start reacting and the dough needs to get in the oven asap to rise as much as possible.  
  2. Work the dough gently with your hands and don't over-mix.  
  3. The dough round should not be more that 1-1/2" thick in the middle before baking because if it's too thick, it won't rise as much.  
  4. Score the bread before baking so that heat can reach the center.  This is also said to "let the fairies out."
  5. If you want to try a softer, tender crust, you can cover the bread in a clean, unscented towel while it cools.
  6. Try mixing in caramelized onions, herbs, sun-dried tomatoes, raisins, or chocolate chips.  
  7. 1 cup buttermilk = 1 tbs vinegar+enough milk to make one cup  (stir and let sit 5 minutes)

     I could have made my loaf look better, but it definitely has a great flavor.  The hardest part is waiting those 2 hours for the bread to cool.  Now you may be wondering, "What is she going to eat with this lovely Irish bread?"  Well, the answer is Chinese food, duh.

Irish Soda Bread

makes 1 large loaf (serves 8)
recipe from Fine Cooking


1 lb. (3-1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups to 1-3/4 cups buttermilk


  1. Preheat the oven to 450*F.  Sprinkle a large rimmed baking sheet with flour.
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl and then make a well shape.
  3. Pour in 1-1/2 cups buttermilk and lightly stir the mixture in a circular motion just until the dough comes together.  Add more milk by the tbs if the dough is too dry.
  4. Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and pat into a circle shape about 6-3/4" across and 1-1/2" high in the middle. Flip over so that the floured side is up.  
  5. Score the bread about 1/4" deep with a sharp knife, making and X.  Make sure you get the dough's full diameter from end to end.
  6. Transfer to the baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Then lower the oven's temperature to 400*F and bake for another 20-30 minutes, until the bread is brown and sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.
  7. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool to room temperature (takes about 2 hours) before serving.  

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