this year’s baking of the bread, joan’s irish soda bread

can you believe it is that time again?  well it is, and i did it again.  every year on or around st. patrick’s day, i make a loaf (or two) of my aunt joan’s irish soda bread.  this year was no different except that i took it out to the garden to share it with my volunteers.  since i have posted the recipe before, here is the link.  my request, bake a loaf and make a promise-help keep the roads safe, don’t drink and drive and please, stop someone who has been drinking from driving.  stay safe my friends.

twd: irish soda bread

every march, i make at least one batch of irish soda bread with my aunt’s recipe; it is a bittersweet ritual that usually causes me to tear up at least once.  i have blogged about it before, and if you follow that link, you will see why it can bring me to tears.  baking irish soda bread is a tradition that has been part of my life-my aunt made it every year and so did an elderly neighbor.  one thing about coming from the new york city area-there are lots of irish neighborhoods and lots of irish families and plenty of soda bread to go around.  my mother (who is irish) also has a thing for soda bread and although she does not bake it, she will send me recipes for the true bread-without the raisins and caraway, because that is how they make it in ireland.  the addition of currants and caraway is an american tradition.
for this weeks challenge, we turn to hosts cathy of my culinary mission and carla of chocolate moosey and they have posted the recipe on their blogs if you would like to try baking a loaf.  better yet, buy a copy of the book or borrow it from the library and try baking along with us some time.

 this simple bread consists of 4 ingredients; flour, buttermilk, salt and baking soda.  it mixes up easily and quickly.

 a minute of kneading will give the bread just enough structure to retain its shape and rise a little.

 a simple x on top is all that it needed
 fresh from the oven-it smells heavenly and rather like a biscuit and it tasted like a buttermilk biscuit to me

 the crumb is on the small side with a few holes so that it mimics a loaf of yeasted bread

along side a loaf of american soda bread using my aunt’s recipe-twice the joy!  thanks to our hosts cathy and carla for a lovely start to my week!  to see what everyone came up with, check the leave your link page on the tuesdays with dorie blogpage

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!