The first time I ever had Irish Soda Bread was many years ago around this time of year, close to St. Patrick’s Day. I bought one loaf and everyone in my family loved it. It was buttery, dense and tender. I went back to the bakery and got couple more loaves, and every year I would be on the lookout for March to roll in so I could buy more of that wonderful buttery goodness. After a few years the bakery was not around anymore and the Irish soda breads that I tried from other bakeries were never as good, they were dry and tasteless. My guess is that they probably were not using real butter in their recipes. As usual I was on a mission to bake the kind of Irish soda bread that I would love to bake again and again and love it to the last morsel. I was so happy when I finally found this recipe! The bread bakes to a beautiful golden brown every time, with perfect firm but tender texture and just enough buttery sweet flavor to make it a delightful breakfast or snack.
Traditionally this classic, mildly sweet Irish quick bread was made with a few basic ingredients including baking soda that was used instead of yeast for leavening, and soured milk to activate the baking soda. A mark X was cut with a knife on top of the dough before baking it, for good luck. This unpretentious rustic bread was baked regularly in old farmhouses to be eaten with every meal and not just for a couple of short weeks in March!!
The Persian in me wants to use spices whenever I can! In this recipe I have added just a hint of ginger, nutmeg and cardamom, and I think it tastes exceptionally delicious but using these spices is totally optional. The best way to eat this Irish Soda Bread is to cut it into wedges while still warm from the oven and spread a thin layer of softened sweet butter on top before enjoying it with a cup of hot tea or coffee. It continues to taste wonderful for up to 2-3 days in an airtight plastic bag at room temperature.
Raisins are soaked in hot water, dried with paper towel and tossed with little flour. Frozen butter is grated on the dry ingredients and then raisins are added.
The wet ingredients are mixed with the dry ingredients to make a very sticky dough that is turned with the help of a pastry scraper on a floured surface and kneaded only until it is dry on the surface.
The dough is divided in half, made into two balls, a mark X is cut with a knife on top of each ball of dough.
The dough is brushed with egg wash, baked in preheated oven until golden brown, then cooled a bit under a kitchen towel.
The warm loaves are cut into wedges and enjoyed with little softened sweet butter for breakfast, teatime or anytime!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!
Two 8-inch round cake pans greased with butter-flavor Crisco shortening and lightly floured
Time: 45-50 minutes
Yield: 2 loaves
- 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus about ⅓ cup for kneading
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ tsp ginger powder (optional)
- ½ tsp nutmeg powder (optional)
- ⅛ tsp cardamom powder (optional)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 4 ounces butter, placed in the freezer for 30 minutes
- 1 cup raisins, plumped in hot water
- 1 tsp flour
- 2 large eggs
- 1 egg separated – Egg white is for the dough. Egg yolk is for the egg wash
- 1⅓ cups buttermilk
- 1 tsp baking soda
- About ⅓ cup flour, to be used for work surface and kneading the dough
- 1 tsp water, to be mixed with egg yolk to make the egg wash
- Preheat the oven to 375 F center rack.
- To plump up the raisins add them to a small bowl, add enough hot water to cover the raisins, let it sit for 1-2 minutes, or until soft. Drain and rinse under cold water and dry between two paper towels. Add the raisins to a small bowl and sprinkle 1 tsp flour over them and toss to coat. Set aside.
- Sift the first 7 dry ingredients into a large bowl and set aside.
- In a small bowl slightly beat 2 whole eggs and 1 egg white. Add buttermilk and one teaspoon baking soda. Let it sit for 10 minutes, or until the mixture thickens and becomes frothy.
- Use a coarse grater to grate the frozen butter onto the sifted dry ingredients. Use your fingers to mix the grated butter with dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
- Stir in the flour coated raisins.
- Stir the frothy buttermilk and egg mixture into the dry ingredients in the large bowl. Use a fork to stir and moisten the dry ingredients. When all the dry ingredients are moist and large clumps of dough form transfer the dough onto a floured surface. The dough will be very sticky. You will need to use a pastry scraper to turn the dough several times and then knead with your hands only until the dough has a dry surface and not so sticky (the inside will still be very sticky).
- Use the pastry scraper to divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a ball and place in prepared pans.
- Use a sharp knife to make two shallow 2-inch cuts on top of each ball in the shape of (X).
- Mix the one egg yolk with 1 tsp water and brush over the prepared dough.
- Bake in preheated 375⁰F oven for 45-50 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Remove the breads from the pans and place them on a cooling rack. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow the breads to cool a bit before serving. Serve the warm bread wedges with extra butter and a hot cup of tea or coffee.