March 14, 2012

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread is a delicious Irish staple, and it is so easy to make! It is rustic, hearty, and relatively healthy. You can personalize it by using different fruits and flavorings, too. I used orange zest and raisins, but you can try any kind of citrus or extract in addition to any dried fruit, including cherries, cranberries, or currants. The fruit adds flavor and texture to the crumbly bread. 

Originally, Irish Soda Bread only contained flour, buttermilk, baking soda, and salt. I wanted a sweeter, richer bread that could be eaten for breakfast, snack, or dessert, so I added sugar, dried fruit, orange zest, an egg, and some butter. 

The trick to getting the right texture is to handle the dough minimally and keeping everything cold, just like making biscuits or pie crust. Kneading the dough develops the protein (gluten) in the flour, which leads to toughness, and lukewarm butter doesn't release steam when baked, so the bread is more dense. I used a stand mixer, but a food processor could work as well. As soon as everything was incorporated and just cohesive, I flipped the dough onto the cookie tray and patted it into a ball instead of kneading and rolling it. It may not be as pretty, but this is supposed to be a rustic bread!

2 Cups Flour
2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
1/3 Cup Sugar
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 Stick Butter, Chilled & Cubed
1 3/4 Cups Buttermilk
1 Egg
1 tsp Orange Zest or Other Flavoring
1 Cup Dried Fruit

Heat oven to 375F. Line a cookie tray with parchment.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the butter and mix until just incorporated. Combine the buttermilk, egg, and flavoring. Slowly add to the flour mixture and fold in the dried fruit.

Gently form the dough into a round and transfer to the prepared sheet. Cut an "x" in the top and bake for 45 minutes or until cooked through.

Makes 1 Loaf
Recipe Adapted from Ina Garten