Tis the season for corned beef and cabbage, for green beer and green socks, and for soda bread.
Irish soda bread, to be exact.
For those of you who aren’t aware – Irish soda bread is a yeast-free bread, sometimes sweet and sometimes not, that is leavened with baking soda (hence the “soda” bread) and usually filled with things like raisins and caraway. It has a bit of a reputation for being dense, dry, and bland.
I know what you’re thinking, “MY GOD THAT SOUNDS DELICIOUS! WHERE CAN I GET SOME!?”
Clearly nostalgia is playing a role in my desire to stuff my face with biscuit-like slices of dense flavorless bread. However, since I was going to have a whole loaf of the stuff laying around, I wanted to make it palatable enough for FH to enjoy as well. Especially after he said that it sounded “absolutely awful”… and I really couldn’t argue with him on that topic.
Though soda bread is a popular Irish recipe, it’s not necessarily the most beloved St. Patty’s Day food on the planet.
So, I decided to get to work on making an improved version of the traditional Irish soda bread. Our typical soda bread which is basically flour, butter, a bit of sugar, baking soda, caraway seeds, and raisins… got a bit of an overhaul.
Ok, maybe a lot of an overhaul.
I added buttermilk and egg to improve the texture, upped the sugar to increase the sweetness (read: flavor), nixed the caraway (but then felt guilty and added a pinch of cardamom), and replaced the rage-inducing raisins with dried cherries and currants. I tried really hard to think of a green dried fruit, and debated dying some golden raisins green (you know, for St. Patty’s Day!) but golden raisins are still raisins and raisins have NO PLACE in my baked goods. Or my life.
And although currants are very similar to raisins, I think it’s because they are super small and have a different flavor that they make me less angry. And dried cherries are delicious. Really you could use any fruit you like – I think dried apricots would go well in here, too (plus, I could possibly get them to a passable shade of green, maybe).
The result? Success! Big success.
Like FH-impressing success. (Although, I’ve been proving him wrong a lot lately)
The resulting bread had a much more tender crumb than your average soda bread with more flavor and a nice well-developed crust on the exterior. So even if you have tried (and disliked) soda bread in the past, give this one a try and I think you might change your mind.
- 3 cups flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- pinch cardamom
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into cubes
- 1 1/2 cup mix-ins (dried fruit of your choice)
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 Tablespoons orange juice
- Preheat oven to 375F degrees
- In a large bowl or stand mixer, mix the dry ingredients together.
- Add the butter and cut into the dough or incorporate with paddle attachment.
- Add the currants and stir to combine.
- Add the liquid ingredients (buttermilk, egg, and orange juice) and mix just until the mixture is moistened.
- Turn out onto lightly-floured surface and knead gently for a few turns (about 5 to 10 turns) until the dough forms a cohesive ball.
- Transfer dough ball to parchment-lined baking sheet and pat into 1-inch thick disk. Cut an "x" into the top of the dough, about 1/4-inch deep.
- Bake 35-45 minutes until exterior is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before serving.
I mixed this in my KitchenAid with the paddle attachment, but you could easily use a large bowl and wooden spoon.