The Plain: Brown Irish Soda Bread
This simple bread relies on the action of baking soda with the acidic buttermilk to produce carbon dioxide to rise. It mixes quickly and makes a fine foil for rich Irish butter or cheese. The loaf is cut with a deep cross to ward off the devil. It also makes it handy to cut into quarters to slice.
Makes one loaf
3 cups white flour
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1 cup whole wheat flour, stone ground, if available
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small bits
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, combine the white flour, wheat flour, baking soda and salt. Stir to mix. Rub in the butter until it is the size of small peas. Make a well in the center and add the buttermilk all at once. Stir with a wooded spoon until you can’t stir any more, then turn the dough onto a floured surface. Knead for one minute and then shape into a flat, 2-inch-high disc. Cut a deep cross (+) into the top, cutting about one-third the bread. Bake on a parchment lined or greased baking sheet for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the bread is deeply browned and sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom.
The Fancy: Joann Dornich’s Irish Soda Bread
This is the fancy version that Joann Dornich’s maternal Grandma Bridget used to make.
Makes one loaf
3 cups sifted flour (can use half whole wheat and half white)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup currants or raisins
1 and one third cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons hot water
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift flour, the three tablespoons of sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Mix in currants and caraway seeds. Add buttermilk and mix until well-blended (dough will be sticky.)
Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead about 10 times. Shape into an 8-inch round loaf. Place on a greased (or sprayed or parchment-lined) baking sheet. Cut a cross (+) into the top of the loaf with a sharp knife. (Note: Joann cuts this really deeply, about a third of the way into the dough.)
Bake for 45 minutes. Dissolve sugar for the glaze in the hot water in a cup and brush generously over the hot loaf. Bake 10 minutes longer until richly golden brown.