Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. St. Pat's was yesterday, what's with the Irish crap today? We're still close enough. Indulge me.
One of the reasons I started adding this food bit to the blog was that I really wanted to start doing a little more scratch baking this year (as well as more clean cooking from scratch -- without all the processed crap we use.)
I love to bake, but after years of doing it professionally, I'd gotten burnt out and took a couple of years off where--at most--I might've baked the kiddo a birthday cake.
In my previous life before writing, I worked in bakeries. I managed several before moving on to a position where I trained others how to bake and decorate and manage their own shops. In my lifetime, I've baked a minimum of 6,000 loaves of Irish Soda Bread (yes -- I did the math.)
But I'd never made it at home.
That changed yesterday. I found a recipe that looked close-ish to what I wanted and I sent out a prayer to St. Patrick that all would turn out.
So what is Irish Soda Bread? That's a tough one to explain, as it has a lot of different versions. Traditional Irish Soda in Ireland tends to be more savory -- with whole grain/stone cut flours and carraway seeds (gross) and currants or raisins.
The Americanized versions often use white flour, raisins, and add a bit of sugar. It's crumbly like a biscuit, moist like a cake, yet, bakes up more like a loaf of bread. Think of it as a scone's softer cousin. It's not quite as sweet as a cake, but there is a bit of sweetness there, so it can serve as a bit of dessert, but I prefer it more toasted with a little butter with breakfast. I had a customer who swore by it in French Toast, but I haven't given that a shot. Maybe I will with any leftovers.
While the doc has told me I need to cut back on white flour... I opted for the Americanized version as it's the one I know I like. Maybe I'll give a darker, savory one a try next St. Pat's. Minus the carraway seeds. Ugh.
And I'm so glad I chose this one. It was even better than the loaves I'd made all those years at the bakery. OMG -- I can't believe I didn't end up in a carb coma after having a couple of slices, especially when you consider the potatoes I had with my cabbage and corned beef (yes, I cheated and ate meat.)
(And Guinness. That's technically a carb, right?)
MY notes on this recipe --
1. Use a TALL pan. If you have an 8" round cake pan with 3" sides, that worked perfectly for me. If you don't have a 3"tall pan, an 8" springform pan might work if you have one -- just check the sides.
2. I did not use carroway (gross) or currants. That's just my personally preference. Nor did I use golden raisins -- just good old Sunmaid regular ones from my pantry.
3. When baking with raisins, it works well to plump them first-- AKA REHYDRATE THEM. If you've ever baked something with raisins and the raisins become hard, disgusting, little stones in your recipe, it was because you didn't plump them some beforehand. Baking is going to dry the raisins more than they already are. They need a little water added so the raisins you love remain soft and moist in your baked good.
For a cup of raisins -- set them in a small bowl. Boil 1 cup of water and then pour it over your raisins, making sure they're all covered. Let them sit for about 10 mins. Drain them well (but don't squeeze too hard, you just added water for a reason) By the time you've baked them, the water will evaporate and leave you with delightfully soft raisins in your cake/bread/pie/whatever
Side note -- if your recipe calls for water, you can re-use the leftover raisin water once it cools. It'll give you some extra flavor. This recipe does not call for water, so toss it on out.
Irish American Irish Soda Bread
3/8 cup (6 tablespoons) butter
3/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) buttermilk (or 1 cup milk + 1/2 cup yogurt)
1 cup currants or golden raisins, firmly packed
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 tablespoon milk, for glaze
1 tablespoon sparkling white sugar, for topping
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease an 8" x 3 1/2" round pan (or a 9" x 3" round pan), one whose capacity is at least 5 1/2 cups.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth.
Add the eggs, and beat on high speed until the mixture is thick and light-colored, about 2 minutes.
Stir in the baking powder, baking soda, and salt, then 1 cup of the flour.
Gently beat in half the buttermilk (or milk/yogurt mixture), then another cup of the flour.
Add the remainder of the buttermilk, and the final cup of flour, mixing until smooth.
Stir in the currants and caraway seeds.
Spoon the mixture into your prepared pan. Drizzle the milk atop the batter, and sprinkle with the sparkling white sugar.
Bake the bread for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Tent a sheet of aluminum foil over the top for the final 15 minutes, if it appears to be browning too quickly.
Remove the bread from the oven, wait about 5 minutes, then carefully turn it out onto a rack to cool.
Allow the bread to cool for at least 1 hour before slicing.
Store, well-wrapped, for 3 days at room temperature, or freeze for up to a month.