these irish eyes are smiling…

every year on st. patrick’s day, i try to make a loaf of soda bread.  usually, i pull out my aunt’s recipe and make a loaf studded with currants and caraway seed.  it’s a little bittersweet-she passed away years ago and it is hard to make it without thinking of all that she and the entire family had to endure those last few years.  i’ve posted about the bread before and you can read about it here and if you are adventurous, make a loaf of the bread using the recipe-it is the best american-irish soda bread recipe around.

as a fan of irish soda bread, or what we yanks call irish soda bread, i was not completely surprised to hear that the familiar raisin filled loaf is not entirely authentic.  it seems that the addition of raisins (or currants-my preference) and caraway seed is an american tradition.  when raisins are added to the loaf in ireland, they call it cake or spotted dog.  there actually is a society dedicated to the preservation of the traditional loaf and they have a website full of information and recipes.  some time ago, my mother had sent me an article from a magazine with traditional soda bread recipes in it and if my house was not currently in flood induced shambles, i would have used the recipes.  instead, i did a google search and compiled a recipe from two that i thought seemed reasonable.

less than 18 hours later, the bread has been devoured, my husband ate at least half of the loaf himself.  i watched as he slathered each slice with butter.  i ate the bread plain, dipping it into the vinaigrette that had pooled at the bottom of my salad plate-yes, i may be irish, but i am italian too and no italian can resist fresh baked bread with salad.  since it was so quick and easy to make, i can do this any time i need bread-less than 10 minutes to measure, mix and shape.  it took longer for the stone to heat in the oven!

traditional irish soda bread
yields 1 (8″) round loaf
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted or olive oil (i chose oil)
1 1/4-1 3/4 cups buttermilk-the amount will vary according to how thick it is.  some buttermilks are artificially thickenedand others are very thin.  i used a naturally cultured one that was thick and needed the full amount.
preheat your oven and stone to 450, if using a stone, remember that it will take at least 30 minutes to get really hot.  mix the flours, soda and salt in a bowl.  make a well in the center, pour in the oil and most of the buttermilk.  turn the outsides into the middle to mix.  using your hands, continue to mix until a soft, almost biscuit-like dough is formed.  shape it into a smooth ball and place it on a cornmeal dusted peel or   cookie sheet (without the sides or an upside down one-so you can slide it onto the stone in the oven).  cut an “x” across the top and slide it off onto the stone.  bake for 20 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 for 25-30 minutes.  the bread will be a beautiful golden color and the internal temperature will be at least 190 F.
allow it to cool before slicing.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh!  

happy st. patrick’s day!

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