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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Irish Soda Bread

I have wanted to try and make Irish soda bread for a long time now, and in honor of St. Patrick's Day coming up, I finally decided to give it a shot. I don't know what it is about Irish Soda Bread, but around this time of year, I crave it. Maybe it makes me feel more Irish. Of course, I'm not Irish at all...but everyone always thinks I am. So I routinely pass myself off as such during every mid-March.

I prefer my soda bread with just a hint of sweetness (especially in the yummy crusty outer part), so I hunted for a recipe that seemed like it would fit the bill. I came across Marilyn O'Reilly's Irish Soda Bread on the Food Network website. Not only was it the highest rated out of all the soda bread recipes, but it also called for more sugar than the others. So I decided that this recipe was definitely the one for me.

3 C all-purpose flour
1/4 C sugar
1 tbls baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbls unsalted butter (1/4 C)
2 tbls caraway seeds, optional
1 C raisins/cranberries/etc <-- I used the raisin/cranberry blend from Sun-Maid

1 C buttermilk
1 egg
Zest of 1 orange (I decided to add this to the recipe, and it gives a nice citrus undertone. I might even zest 2 oranges next time)

1. Set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, zest and salt and stir well to mix.

3. Add the butter and rub in until the butter disappears into the dry ingredients.

4. Stir in the caraway seeds if used and the dried fruit.

5. In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk and egg together and mix into the dough

6. Turn the dough out on a floured work surface and fold it over on itself several times, kneeding for a few minutes

7. Shape it into a round loaf. Transfer the loaf to one cookie sheet or jelly roll pan covered with parchment or foil and cut a cross in the top (I forgot to do this, so I stabbed at it with a butter knife while it was in the oven...this is why my top looks like a cat attacked it).

8. Bake for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 350 and cook for about 30-35 minutes more, until well colored and a toothpick plunged into the center emerges clean. The original recipe says to cook it for only an additional 15-20 minutes, making for a 30-35 minute total cooking time, but I (and the other reviewers on Food Network) found that it took closer to 50 total minutes for the bread to be done.

9. Cool the soda bread on a rack and serve with butter and/or marmalade.

I ate my bread without any butter, and it was very yummy. The crust baked up nice and slightly sweet, almost like a cookie coating on the bread. The caraway seeds were little strong, but without them, I don't think the bread would have much of a taste on it's own. One reviewer said she tried the bread with and without seeds, and the seeded bread won the taste test of her coworkers hands down. Maybe, if you really object to caraway, add only 1 tbls instead of 2.

I definitely agree with the 5 star rating for this recipe. It was easy to put together, looks great, smells fantastic as it bakes, and tastes yummy. It was a little crumbly, especially on the outer parts, but I expect that from Irish Soda Bread. I think I will definitely be adding this recipe to my St. Patty's Day repertoire!

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