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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Irish Soda Bread



Alright, I feel like I say this a lot on this blog, but here is yet another recipe that I do not know why I haven't made decades before now. Irish soda bread-- what a wonderful, easy, delicious little loaf of bread.  Every year I see those signature round loaves with the X on top pop up on blogs, magazines, and in bakeries but why I haven't made my own, I do not know.  For those of you who may be also pondering a jump into the Irish soda bread pool, let me encourage you, in about an hour, you can have a delicious tasty loaf of bread that reminded me of something between a biscuit and English muffin bread.  Are you making a pot of beef stew or a hearty soup? Why not make some Irish soda bread to go along with it.  Do you want a nice dense salty and slightly sweet bread that is perfect for toasting to go along with your afternoon cup of tea? Irish soda bread is all you.

Irish soda bread is a quick bread that uses baking soda as a leavening agent instead of yeast.  There are many different variations for soda bread-- some using wheat flour, some that are filled with raisins, currants, or caraway seeds, but I wanted to try a classic recipe since this was my first attempt.  As I usually do when I'm attempting new ventures in baking, I turned to the folks at America's Test Kitchens and used my trusty Family Baking Book.  I highly recommend this cookbook for anyone who is interested in baking.  It has thousands of recipes from beginner to advanced for pretty much any baked good a baker would need to have in their repertoire with tutorials and how-to's on every page.  It's a great resource for when I get stumped in the kitchen.  

I look forward to making this many many more times throughout the year, not just around St. Patrick's Day.  The ingredients are those that I usually always have around making this a convenient recipe to whip up at the last minute.  One last note, make sure not to overwork the dough.  In all of the recipes I looked at, all were insistent to not handle the dough too much or it would become tough.


Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients:
3 cups (15 oz) all-purpose flour
1 cup (4 oz.) cake flour
2 T sugar
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 1/2 t cream of tartar
1 1/2 t salt
2 T unsalted butter, softened, plus extra, melted for brushing
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Instructions:

1 Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Whisk the flours, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt together in a large bowl. Work the butter into the dry ingredients into the dry ingredients with a fork until the texture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in the buttermilk with a fork just until the dough begins to come together.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead just until the dough becomes cohesive and bumpy, about 30 seconds. Do not knead until smooth.  Pat the dough into a 6-inch round, about 2 inches thick and lay on the prepared baking sheet.

4. Cut a large 1/2 inch deep X into the top of the loaf using a serrated knife or clean razor blade.  Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached 35-45 minutes, rotating the pan half way though baking.

5. Let the loaf cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour.  Brush with melted butter before serving.

Recipe from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book


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