Sunday, March 13, 2011

First Dabble: Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread

I thought this recipe a fitting way to start my foray into the baking blogosphere. My family is proudly Irish, and this is a recipe that has been handed down to me from my mom. I have tested many soda breads, including a few during my study abroad in the Emerald Isle, but this remains my favorite. Pair a slice of this bread with a little Irish butter and a cup of black tea and you will find yourself in a moment of complete contentment. Every year around St. Patty's Day, I make a bunch of loaves of this bread to give away as gifts, and of course to enjoy myself. 

Deliciousness aside, this recipe represents a lot of what baking means to me. I got started baking because of my grandma...a wonderful baker who got me into the kitchen at a very young age. Family recipes and cooking traditions are a big part of my life, and this recipe is no different. Food is a tool of communication and I often use it express how I feel. I really enjoy giving this bread away and spreading a little love in the process. 

So, enjoy this recipe and happy St. Patrick's Day. As a friend of my brother's put it..."When you are sliding down the banister of life, may the splinters point in your favor."♣

Recipe: Irish Soda Bread

-5 c all-purpose flour                         
-2 tsp baking powder                         
-1 1/2 tsp salt                                  
-1 tsp baking soda                           
-3/4 cup sugar
-1 1/2 sticks cold, unsalted butter
-2 1/2 c soaked raisins
-2 1/2 c buttermilk
-1 egg

1. Preheat oven to 350°F
2. Put raisins in medium sized bowl and cover with hot water. Let sit.
3. Sift together dry ingredients. Stir in sugar.
4. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into dry ingredients until texture resembles sand. 
5. Strain raisins and stir into dry ingredients to coat each with flour/butter mixture.
6. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk and egg. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir together using a spoon until incorporated.
7. Separate dough into two standard loaf pans that have been buttered slightly.
8. Bake at 350°F for approximately 1 hour, or until bread has golden brown crust on top.
9. Enjoy!

Pictures and Tips:

Step 2. Soaking the raisins in hot water helps plump them up and make them tender. If you do this right after you preheat your oven, by the time you need to put them in the dough they will be good to go.

Step 3. I sift the dry ingredients in any baking recipe. I don't have a sifter, so I have always used this hand works great. Sifting lightens up the dry ingredients and also helps evenly incorporate everything, like the baking soda/powder and salt. If you haven't tried it before, give it a  might notice a difference in the texture of your baked goods.

Step 4. Cut the sticks of cold butter into a few pieces to help get the process going. The idea here is to spread all of that buttery goodness to every fleck of flour. This part of the process can sometimes be the most difficult in baking recipes. For example in pie crusts, when you are incorporating water into your dry ingredients...if you overdo it, you will have tough crust. However, here, we haven't added any wet ingredients, so this part isn't too complicated. Here is a picture of what the texture should look like:

The texture almost resembles sand. The butter is evenly incorporated into all of the dry ingredients.

Steps 5 & 6. After straining the liquid off the raisins, stir them into the dry ingredients. Coating the raisins in the flour prevents them from falling to the bottom of the bread when you are baking it. This will ensure that you have raisins in every bite. After whisking them together in a separate bowl, add the wet ingredients.

Then, use a spoon to incorporate all the ingredients together. I usually use a wooden spoon. This is a dense batter, and you'll get a mini arm workout stirring it up.

Step 7. Separate dough into two standard loaf pans that have been lightly buttered. If you forget to butter the pans, don't worry. This recipe has a lot of butter and I never have a problem getting the bread to come out of the pan. Traditionally, Irish Soda Bread comes in a round shape. However, I like the rectangular is easy to cut and is a pan that most people have in their kitchens. If you want to experiment with other shapes, go for it!

Step 8. Bake until the bread has a golden brown crust, usually an hour or so. I let the bread cool in the pan for a little while, then run a butter knife around the edges and let it finish cooling on a rack. 

Step 9. Enjoy! My favorite way is to spread a little butter on a slice and make a cup of black tea. Pictured here is a mug purchased in Ireland, where I studied at Trinity College in Dublin. This recipe has been a part of many fond memories, and I hope you can use it to create some of your own.

Thanks for visiting, 

-The Delicious Dabbler.

1 comment:

  1. This makes me miss home. The sounds and smells from the kitchen and the warmth that radiates through the food that is prepared. Growing up Italian, the kitchen was the central nervous system of the home. Best of luck with your Blog!