Due to lots of chorus activities around St. Patrick’s Day, I completely forgot to make my Soda bread. I love soda bread. I love its simplicity and plainness. No wonder it is such a good companion for tea. But. And no apologies to those vocal defenders of soda bread. Yes I know you got your recipe from your Irish ancestors and I know how dear you hold the simplicity of your soda bread. But I firmly believe that a basic soda bread can be a canvass for other flavors. My research has found that a daily soda bread is a simple dish…no butter, no sugar, no eggs…often, no raisins. But on festive occasions and feast days, the humble soda bread was “dressed up” and additives like butter, dried fruit, even nuts were added. Here is mine. I added a pinch of sugar, rubbed in some butter to help the bread keep for more than a day, and I added some toasted pecans. A brush of an egg yoke wash and a sprinkling of flaked sea salt before baking pushes this over the top.
If I have offended your delicate sensibilities of what soda bread “should” be, please save your energy and hold as tightly to your narrow definitions. I’ve waged bigger battles over other firmly held food beliefs (sugar in corn bread, etc). This is my soda bread. Don’t like it? Don’t make it.
1/2 lb whole wheat flour (or about 1 3/4 cup)
1/2 lb all purpose flour (white)
1 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cup butter milk (or half buttermilk/half cream)
4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, cold, cut in small cubes
3/4 cup raisins soaked in boiling water for 20 minutes, then drained)
1/2 cup coarsly chopped pecans (optional)
Preheat the oven to 450 and make sure a rack in in the middle of the oven.
Mix the flours, baking soda, salt and sugar until well combined. Rub in the butter until no large chunks remain. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix just until the dough comes together. Mid way through give it a feel with your hands…you’ll feel if it needs more buttermilk…you will also see lots of flour in the bottom of the bowl. You want to work this dough as little as possible so you have a tender bread. On a piece of parchment paper, form into a ball. Brush with a beaten egg yolk mixed with a Tablespoon of milk, sprinkle with sea salt. Cut your traditional cross in the dough, and Darina Allen (the Julia Child of Ireland) pierces each of the four quadrants with the knife, to “release the fairies”.
Bake at 450 for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 425 and bake until the bread is gold n brown and sounds hollow when you tap on the bottom.
Try, if you can (I often cannot) to let the bread cool. Of course slather with butter and enjoy