Dish of the Week: Irish Soda Bread

Categories: How To, Recipes

irish_soda_bread.jpg
Photo by CGehlen
Traditionally, a cross was cut into the top of the bread before baking to protect the household from evil spirits.
From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. See the complete list of recipes at the end of this post.

Soda bread is a popular quick bread made with sodium bicarbonate -- also known as baking soda, or 'bread soda" -- in lieu of the traditional leavening agent yeast. Though it wasn't invented in Ireland, the quick bread has been an Irish staple since baking soda was first introduced to the country in the early 1800s. That's due in large part to the simplicity and cheapness of its ingredients: baking soda, soft wheat flour, salt, and soured milk or buttermilk.

When the bread is prepared, the lactic acid present in the buttermilk reacts with the baking soda, forming tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide throughout. Bakers recommend minimal mixing and no kneading before baking so as to keep the bread light.

There are many variations on the recipe, but oftentimes butter and sugar are added to make the bread extra-sweet. This classic Irish-American soda bread from Bon Appétit uses caraway seeds, raisins and sugar. Top it with butter and serve with a traditional Saint Patrick's Day dinner or serve it with jam for a sweet and savory breakfast treat.

Irish Soda Bread w/ Raisins and Caraway

Ingredients

5 cups all-purpose flour (can also use cake or pastry flour)
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter, diced and at room temperature
2½ cups raisins
3 tbsp caraway seeds
2½ cups buttermilk
1 large egg

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter a two-inch-deep, heavy-bottomed cast-iron skillet.

In a large bowl, blend together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Add in butter and use fingertips to rub until coarse crumbs form. Stir in raisins and caraway seeds.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and egg. Add to dough, stirring until well incorporated. The dough will be very sticky.

Transfer dough to the prepared skillet and smooth the top, mounding it slightly in the center. Using small, sharp knife dipped in flour, cut 1-inch-deep X in top center of dough.

Bake until bread is cooked through and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about one hour and 15 minutes. Let the bread cool in the skillet for ten minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.

The dough may be made a day ahead; just wrap it tightly in foil and store at room temperature. Serve with butter and jam.

See more Dishes of the Week:

Dish of the Week: Coq Au Vin
Dish of the Week: Argentine Chimichurri
Dish of the Week: Flourless Chocolate Cake
Dish of the Week: New England Clam Chowder
Dish of the Week: Beef Stroganoff
Dish of the Week: Hushpuppies


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