Monday, March 12, 2012

Irish Soda Bread

I just thought you would like to know that my family is not Irish, even though my younger brother Dave has a red beard. It's weird actually, because he has dark brown hair on his head. His red beard remains a mystery... Anyway, in our house growing up we always celebrated St. Patrick's Day, but it might have had to do with the fact that it was my older brother's birthday. I remember seeing this one specific picture of my brother Ryan when he was like three or something, and he was sitting next to a big round cake with a giant leprechaun frosted on it. The happy leprechaun had a huge red beard, green hat and was smoking a pipe. I really do hope that I am remembering that picture correctly and didn't just make that up. What a weird thing to imagine. Moving on.

Last week I asked my brother what kind of treat he would like me to make him on his St. Patrick's Day birthday, and he said anything with rhubarb. Ya know, I had big plans for some sort of stout cake with Irish cream frosting, or something St. Patty's Day themed, but he had to go and ruin everything since it's his birthday or whatever. I kid, I kid. On St. Patrick's Day I will be using frozen rhubarb, because I can't find it fresh, and making my brother a rhubarb bar that I will be concocting all on my own. Wish the both of us luck. Maybe some Irish luck, that's good, right?

Since I love all holidays, I couldn't go through this one without making some sort of traditional Irish treat. I've been hearing people talk about Irish Soda Bread for a while now, so I thought I would finally give it a try. It turned out to be the easiest bread I've ever made, with maybe the exception of banana bread. I was incredibly excited about it because it ended up tasting so good, especially warm out of the oven with a little butter on it. I prefer the full-fat unsalted butter to accompany my bread, yup. I was even more excited about this stuff when it was cooled and I could slice it perfectly. This bread was toaster ready, man. I will definitely be keeping this recipe and making this Irish Soda Bread again. This recipe was so easy to understand and follow through with. I hope you get a chance to make it within the next week to get in the holiday spirit. Enjoy!

Irish Soda Bread
Adapted from Saveur

4 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons butter, cubed
1 cup raisins
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 425°. Sift together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda into a large mixing bowl. I recently found out how much of a difference sifting actually makes. I'll never skip this step again.

Using a pastry cutter or two knives or your fingers if you'd like, work butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal, then stir in raisins. You could also use golden raisins or currants if you'd like. It just depends on your taste.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add beaten egg and buttermilk to well and mix in with a wooden spoon or spatula until dough is too stiff to stir. Dust hands with some flour, and then gently knead dough in the bowl just long enough to form a rough ball. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and shape into a round loaf.

Transfer dough to a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a serrated knife or bench knife, score top of dough about 1/2'' deep in an "X" shape. Transfer to oven and bake until bread is golden and bottom sounds hollow when tapped with a knife, about 40- 50 minutes. Transfer bread to a rack to let cool briefly. Serve bread warm, at room temperature, or sliced and toasted.

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