St. Patrick's Day Calls for Irish Soda Bread!
When I was growing up and someone new moved onto the block, my mother would whip up a batch of Irish Soda Bread to welcome them to the neighborhood. I suppose in California we’re more apt to bring over a bottle of wine, but back in New England lots of Moms followed along with this Irish welcome. When Mrs. Southworth moved in next door, Mom showed up at her door with one, and they became life-long friends. When the famous celebs moved in up the street, my friend Jenny and I decided maybe we should bake some to welcome them, too! (Okay, maybe that was in the hopes that their good looking, underwear-model of a brother would be visiting, also, but we did actually want to welcome them.) As I wrote in my Valentine’s blog, a gift from the kitchen shows you care. This St. Patrick’s Day, mix up a batch of Irish Soda Bread to share. Bring it into work with a jar of jam, or pop one over to your neighbor’s house, just because. Tell them your Irish Realtor inspired you! ;)
Irish-American soda bread is a sweeter, lighter, more interesting riff on the original Irish soda bread, a simple combination of flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk. No eggs, no sugar, no raisins or caraway seeds... all of those came later. And in America, land of "too much is just enough," the formula became richer still, with the addition of butter, and yet more sugar. The following soda bread tastes like a sweet, rich scone, a tiny bit crumbly but moist enough to hold together nicely when it's sliced. The people at King Arthur Flour bake it in a tall, round pan, to give it its classic shape, but a free-form circle works just as well and adds to the rustic look. Though you can use raisins or currants, we prefer the tinier currants, as they spread themselves more evenly throughout the loaf.
YIELD: 1 loaf, about 12 servings
3/8 cup (6 tablespoons) butter
3/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) buttermilk (or 1 cup milk + 1/2 cup yogurt)
1 cup currants or golden raisins, firmly packed
2 teaspoons caraway seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon milk, for glaze
1 tablespoon sparkling white sugar, for topping
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease an 8" x 3 1/2" round pan (or a 9" x 3" round pan), one whose capacity is at least 5 1/2 cups. A souffle pan or panettone pan is a good choice.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth.
Add the eggs, and beat on high speed until the mixture is thick and light-colored, about 2 minutes.
Stir in the baking powder, baking soda, and salt, then 1 cup of the flour.
Gently beat in half the buttermilk (or milk/yogurt mixture), then another cup of the flour.
Add the remainder of the buttermilk, and the final cup of flour, mixing until smooth.
Stir in the currants and caraway seeds.
Spoon the mixture into your prepared pan. Drizzle the milk atop the batter, and sprinkle with the sparkling white sugar.
Bake the bread for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Tent a sheet of aluminum foil over the top for the final 15 minutes, if it appears to be browning too quickly.
Remove the bread from the oven, wait about 5 minutes, then carefully turn it out onto a rack to cool. Allow the bread to cool for at least 1 hour before slicing.
Store, well-wrapped, for 3 days at room temperature, or freeze for up to a month.