Irish soda bread is essentially a very large scone, one that isn't sweet, but yet is tender, delicious and perfect with a cup of tea. American-style soda bread adds a little bit more sugar, some caraway seeds and a good amount of plump, juicy raisins. It was such a bread that I was looking forward to baking this weekend for St. Patrick's Day.
After asking several people for their favorite versions of soda bread, I settled on the recipe by Cook's Illustrated, which can be found in their Baking Illustrated book. Their recipe uses buttermilk, and I have to say that it makes all of the difference. The bread is tender, the crumb is light.
This is the Baking Illustrated recipe! Please note that I doubled the recipe in these photos, because I wanted to bake 2 breads.
- 3 cups lower-protein unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup plain cake flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1-1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon melted butter for crust
- 1-1/4 cups buttermilk
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 tablespoons caraway seeds
- Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Whisk the flours, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt together in a large bowl. Work the softened butter into the dry ingredients with a fork or your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Combine the buttermilk and egg with a fork. Add the buttermilk-egg mixture, raisins and caraway seeds and stir with a fork just until the dough begins to come together. Turn out onto a flour-covered work surface; knead just until the dough becomes cohesive and bumpy. 12-14 turns. (Do not knead until the dough is smooth or the bread will be tough.)
- Pat the dough into a round about 6 inches in diameter and 2 inches high; place on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Score the dough by cutting a cross shape on the top of the loaf.
- Bake, covering the bread with aluminum foil if it is browning too much, until the loaf is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, or the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees, 40-45 minutes. Remove loaf from the oven and brush the surface with the melted butter; cool to room temperature, 30-40 minutes.
My only regret this time around was scoring the breads a little deeper than I should have. This caused the cross in the middle of each bread to spread more than I was hoping for, but nevertheless, the breads were still tasty.
I've already had a couple of slices of Irish soda bread with my afternoon tea. If there is any bread left, tomorrow morning I will toast some pieces and slather on the butter and jam. Give this recipe a go in the coming days. I think you'll like it as much as I do. Cheers!
Happy St. Patrick's Day!!