There is something that must be said about making your own bread. All over the world, different forms of bread are a staple to everyday life, and perhaps this is why creating your own it is such a satisfying and rewarding experience.
The fact that soda breads do not contain yeast cannot take away this ‘experience’. The dough is still shaped by hand and the bread retains that sustaining quality. It is soft, with a sugar-kissed crunchy crust, and studded throughout with plump raisins. I like to enjoy a thick slice while sitting outside on the patio and listening to the melting snow drip, drip, drip off the roof.
I love my yeast breads, but sometimes I don’t have the time necessary to wait for them to rise. Soda breads are unique because this step is eluded, although in the past I have made recipes that resulted in a dry, coarse bread. For this adaptation, I added an extra egg to create a softer bread, and I think it worked really well.
And of course…a little soda bread is just so fitting for the upcoming holiday we know of as St. Patrick’s Day. When I lived in Chicago St. Patricks’ Day was a HUGE deal. Out in the mountains, it’s not as big. Sure, people like to go out and drink, but that’s about it. Come to think, this is probably one of the few holidays that the town or restaurant won’t be packed with tourists. I like it.
Irish Soda Bread (adapted from Ina Garten)
3-4 cups all-purpose flour (depending on the dryness of your flour)
4 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced into small cubes
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
zest of 1 orange
1 cup raisins
Extra flour for dusting
2 tablespoons buttermilk
3 tablespoons raw sugar
Preheat oven to 350 F. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Add the cold cubes of butter and mix on low speed until the butter has blended into the dry ingredients and is the size of small peas.
Whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, and orange zest. Add to the dry mixture and blend until the mixture just begins to come together. Toss the raisins in 1 tablespoon of flour (this will keep them from sinking to the bottom of the bread), and add to the dough. Mix a bit more until the raisins are evenly distributed. The dough will be fairly wet and sticky. If it is unmanageable, add a bit more flour.
Turn the dough out on a floured work surface and sprinkle the top with flour. Fold it over onto itself several times until you can form it into a tight ball. Slash an ‘x’ across the top and brush with buttermilk. Sprinkle with the raw sugar and bake for nearly an hour, until lightly golden brown and the inside sounds hollow with tapped.