I have but one simple plea for you all today. Please, take just a moment and step away from the green beer, folks, and revel in the wonderfulness of Irish Soda Bread.
Oh yes, I know – for many, it’s a time of year for all that is green and holy. But for me? It’s the time of year for currants and caraway seeds. Time for the most tender, heavenly, crusty crust known to man and leprechaun. It’s Irish Soda Bread season, lads and lassies. And when it comes to mid-March, well, it’s my bread and butter. Figuratively. And literally.
My favorite recipe is probably not terribly authentic but heck, it’s close enough, and like most Irish Soda Breads (and unlike many other St. Patty’s theme recipes) doesn’t involve one teensy drop of green food coloring. And genuine or not, it’s so delicious, I want to dance a jig. But I don’t actually dance a jig – ever tried to do that while eating a thick slice of buttered bread? Not good. Not good at all.
My recipe? From none other than the Barefoot Contessa herself, the great and powerful Ina Garten of everything simple and fabulous. I follow her recipe almost to a T – I leave out the orange zest and often add some caraway seeds. And I add twice the butter – a happy mistake that created such an extra-terrific loaf of bread that I can’t go back now. The result is an amazing, crusty round of dense, slightly sweet bread that’s divine right out of the oven and, the next day, makes the most delicious toast you’ve ever had.
And so here, finally, is the recipe. Okay, fine, fine, enjoy it with a little green beer if you absolutely must.
Irish Soda Bread
- 4 cups flour (plus another tablespoon or so for the currants)
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 cup 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into squares
- 1 3/4 cup buttermilk (I make cheater's buttermilk with milk and lemon juice)
- 1 egg
- 1 cup dried currants
- 2 teaspoons caraway seeds (optional)
- Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a cookie sheet or cover it with a sheet of parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of flour into the currants, and set aside. Barefoot Contessa says the flour keeps the currants from sinking to the bottom of the dough, and who am I to question her?
- Mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.
- Beating on low, mix in the butter until fairly well blended. You'll probably still see little lumps of butter here and there, but that's okay.
- Crack the egg into a small bowl and beat it with a fork.
- Pour the egg into the buttermilk, give it a stir, and then add the buttermilk and egg to the flour and butter mixture while beating on low.
- Mix just until everything comes together.
- Add the currants and mix just until incorporated.
- Turn the dough onto a floured board. The dough will be very wet and sticky.
- Work enough flour into the bread to be able to knead it a just a few times.
- Form the bread into a round loaf.
- Move the loaf to the baking sheet.
- With a sharp knife, cut a shallow X into the top of the bread dough.
- Bake for 45 - 55 minutes, until golden brown and it sounds a little hollow when you knock on it. You can also try using a cake tester just to be sure - when it comes out clean, it's done.
- Cool for a few minutes, and then enjoy Irish Soda Bread season! It'll be gone before you know it. And then it's Cadbury Egg season.