There are so many variations of Irish Soda Bread that it’s hard to pick a recipe. Some are sweetened with sugar and used for a breakfast or tea bread. Others have raisins or currents and may or may not be sweetened, and finally some are spiced with caraway seeds, cardamom, or coriander. The best part is that this bread requires no yeast proofing or rising, so it’s nearly foolproof, no matter which version you decide to make
What all the loaves have in common is the dough is biscuit-like, thick and mixed until combined, but not creamed. Each loaf has a cross slashed it its top – not just a bit of tradition – but to keep the bread from splitting during baking. For the best bread, bake it fresh and use it immediately. If you must store it, refrigerate the leftovers for no more than a day or two.
This is a perfect beginning cook recipe so pull out the aprons and let your little one help. Divide the recipe in half or let him/her measure the dry ingredients into separate bowls, crack the eggs, etc. Then cut the loaf in two and let him/her kneed a loaf as well. The loaves can cook side by side in the same Dutch oven. Next have your little helper find any green or yellow serving bowls, platters, plates, linens, etc., that can be found around the house and set them out so you can figure out which will be perfect for your little St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
For a fun lunch, use the bread to make corned beef & Swiss Cheese sandwiches and serve with a nice grainy mustard, coleslaw, and pickles. Purchase in advance inexpensive shamrocks picks to top off the sandwiches, perhaps some paper napkins with a St. Patrick’s Day theme, or plastic plates in green. All are inexpensive adds that add a great amount to a theme.
For breakfast or tea time snack, serve it with Pure Irish Butter and fresh fruit. What’s Irish Butter? It’s butter with a higher fat content that American butter so it’s creamier. It’s generally available at Trader Joe’s and many Costcos. Get out your best tea cups, I prefer mismatched floral prints, I purchase mine on eBay. Place the fruit and bread, sliced in tea sized portions, on a pretty floral platter. Serve apple juice instead of tea if you’ve not got any tea drinkers. It’s the ritual, not what you serve, that they’ll remember. Use lacy linens (also vintage and purchased very cheaply on eBay) that can be used for so many other special events like Valentine’s Day, tea parties, and more.
Not sure you’re ready to make it from scratch? There are plenty of Irish Soda Bread Mixes available in store and online.
IRISH SODA BREAD
4-1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
4 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. double-acting baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup seedless raisins or ¾ cup currants OR 1 tbls Caraway Seeds PLUS an ¼ cup of flour
6 tbsp. sweet butter
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
Preheat Oven 450 degrees
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and your choice of flavor. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in the until the mixture resembles crumbs. Do not over mix.
In a 2 cup capacity bowl, beat the eggs well and set aside 1 tbls of beaten egg for later use as glaze. In the remainging egg add buttermilk and mix well.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour the egg/buttermilk mixture into the center of the flour mixture and mix with a fork moistened. Turn the mix out onto a floured board and using well-floured hands shape the dough into rough round shape. Knead the dough 8 or 9 times. Kneed just until the dough is smooth, being careful not to knead too much or else the bread will become tough and heavy.
Shape into a ball and place smooth side up, in the well buttered bottom of a Dutch oven. Cut a cross in the top of the loaf and brush with the reserved beaten egg. Cover Dutch oven and place in preheated oven (if your Dutch oven has a plastic handle, cover it with foil before putting it in the oven). Bake for 5 minutes at 450 degrees. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 45-50 minutes longer, or until golden brown. This method should result in a crispy crust and light interior!
Done? A skewer inserted into the center of the loaf should come out clean and/or the loaf sounds hollow when tapped with a fork. Cool on a wire rack.