Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Irish Soda Bread

Bread. The wonderful aroma of a new loaf fresh from the oven, the tantalizing sight of a thick piece drizzled with honey or slathered in jam, the crunch of the hearty crust as you take your first bite, the tang of the crumb as it hits your tongue. Yes, bread, all kinds of bread, is a very sensual experience. Making bread (by hand) itself is therapy: mixing, kneading, shaping and baking all culminating in a project that can take an hour or a week or even over a year, depending on the type you choose. The result is nothing short of the delight of simplicity, for even the fanciest Brioche is, for all intents and purposes, still a loaf of bread.

I will save my reminiscing of my mother's wonderful Challah and Holiday Brioche loaves for a holiday post, since they are only ever made then in my household. For now, I offer you my humble but favourite Irish Soda Bread, which has been made for a few years now and is always enjoyed.

Irish Soda Bread (adapted from Bread Book by Susan Wright)
Makes 2 loaves
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
4 Tbsp butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 egg
1 cup currants, raisins or other dried fruit

  1. Mix the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Cut the butter into the flour mixture until it gets to a coarse mealy texture.
  3. Seperately, mix the buttermilk and egg until well beaten.
  4. Mix wet mixture into the dry ingredients until very well combined. The dough will be very sticky, but add no more than 1/4 cup flour extra if necessary.
  5. Add in the optional ingredients, if using.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead until smooth (about 10 minutes).
  7. Divide dough in half and shape into two flattened rounds. Place each in an ungreased 8-inch cake tin and press down slightly.
  8. Cut a cross in the top of each loaf.
  9. Bake 40 minutes in a 375 degree oven, cool on wire racks.

**Note: If using this recipe to make a savoury loaf (ie. cheese & herb, etc) decrease sugar to 2 tbsp**

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