Irish Soda Bread

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Irish Soda Bread 


There are few things in the world as alluring as the smell of fresh bread baking in the oven. One whiff can transport us to the cozy kitchens of our childhood where our mothers or grandmothers pulled hot loaves from the oven, then wiped floury hands on aprons as they reached for a knife to cut generous slices. If you were anything like me, you polished off more than a piece, each slathered with butter and homemade jam.


My mother baked 25 loaves at a time using an old Hobart mixer with a bowl big enough for me to fit inside. Always at mama's side, my job was to polish the hot loaves with butter when they came out of the oven.  Then, after the bread cooled I slid each loaf carefully into a plastic bag and closed it with a twist-tie. When all the loaves were bagged, we transported them to the deep chest freezer in the basement. Whenever visitors came calling, more than likely they left with a loaf of Mother's bread which tasted just as good thawed as it did fresh.

Baking bread can seem like an intimidating thing when you're first getting started. The kind my mother baked, and which I still enjoy baking today, is a process requiring several hours and several rises and punch-downs to get that fluffy, soft texture found in an Amish-style slicing bread.  But I don't always have a half day reserved for bread baking, so it's nice to have something easy I can bake in a hurry when unexpected guests arrive, or if I decide on a whim to add fresh bread to the evening's dinner menu.

Making an Irish Soda Bread is a great way to ease into the world of baking homemade bread. And once you have mastered this, you'll want to try other recipes. Maybe you'll even try your hand at my Mama's Honey Bread!  But I can't give you that recipe just yet. (It will be coming soon, though!)

I hope you enjoy this recipe by Imen McDonnell, and do check out her blog Farmette. You'll love the stories of her life on an Irish farm.  In fact, Imen was one of the first cooks I featured on my Cooks in the Kitchen blog.  You can read that story here.

Happy Bread Baking!






Irish Soda Bread
Recipe by Imen McDonnell

Ingredients

3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups buttermilk*
Course sea salt for garnish

Process

1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 C).

2.  In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking soda. Make a well in the center and slowly pour in the buttermilk. Mix the dough with your hands until the texture is soft, but not wet and sticky.

3.  Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and shape into a 1-inch-thick round. Cut a cross on the top. Sprinkle with course sea salt.

4.  Place on a pre-heated baking stone or a flour-dusted baking sheet in the oven for 15 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 400 degrees F (200 C) for 25 - 30 minutes. Tap the bottom of the bread to check for doneness; if it makes a hollow sound, it is ready.

5.  Let it cool for 10 minutes and serve with butter and jam.

Bread is best eaten the same day it is baked, although it will keep for 2 days in an airtight container.

*If I don't have butter milk in the refrigerator, I use 1 cup whole milk and 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt





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