Traditional Irish Soda Bread
Another St. Patrick's Day has come and gone, but there are some favorites that are year round staples.
Now an international favorite, soda bread hails from the Emerald Isle. Traditionally a poor country, soda bread uses only the most basic of ingredients - flour, salt, egg, and sour milk. The sour milk acts as a leavening agent instead of yeast, and is what gives the bread its tangy flavor.
Bread is an integral part of Irish cuisine, due to when small towns thrived and families lived on isolated farmland. It was made every 2-3 days on an open hearth, baked on griddles. This resulted in a tangy, dense, tender bread with hard crust.
Loaves were made differently depending on the region in Ireland. My fiance's family is from Cork, so our recipe calls for round loaves with a cross cut into the dough before being baked. This was thought to ward off the devil and to protect the household. Not to mention it looks amazing after it's being baked!
This past Saint Patrick's Day, we made a full traditional Irish meal - bangers and mash, Irish soda bread, with of course, Guinness. Now because the fiance is a chef and likes to play around with traditional recipes, our mash was made with goat cheese, which made the mash creamier and tangy and rich. But more on that later.
Irish Soda Bread is the easiest bread I've ever made, and is perfect if you're just getting into the realm of baking.
4 Cups All Purpose Flour (Half bread flour-half all purpose can be substituted)
1 Egg whisked with 1 1/4 Cup Buttermilk
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 1/2 tsp Cream of Tartar
2 Tbsp Butter, at room temperature
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and grease a baking sheet. Using a sifter, combine all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and cut in the butter. Rub butter into the flour mixture until it looks like breadcrumbs.
2. Using the back of a spatula, create a well in the center of dry ingredients and pour in the egg and buttermilk mixture. Mix until you make a soft dough.
3. Knead the dough on a floured surface for a minute or two. Shape dough into one round loaf or into 4 separate farls. Mark each loaf with a cross and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. When cooked, the bread will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
4. Cool on a wire rack and serve as soon as cooled.
Irish soda bread can be served with a main dish, doused in gravy, or served alone with light butter or jam.
I didn't have buttermilk sitting around my house, so I used a quick trick to make my own buttermilk with 2 cups of milk and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or white vinegar.