Happy St. Patrick's Day, Dear Readers! Well, almost anyway. It seems everywhere I look, go or pick up something to read, I see or hear something about Irish food staples. I apologize but today's post will add to the noise.
Irish soda bread is just a quick bread that uses (dah) baking soda instead of yeast for leavening. There are as many add-ins as there are recipes. I have seen recipes with additions like; raisin, caraway seeds, nuts, seeds, feathers... (The last one was listed to see if you were paying attention.) I have seen recipes that use all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, wheat germ, spelt flour, pastry flour and other types of flour. I read recipes with butter, lard, shortening or even olive oil. Additionally, either milk or buttermilk and eggs or no eggs are used. Have you noticed a pattern? Yep. There is no pattern and apparently, there are no rules either so what to do? What to do? Take a shot of Irish whiskey and just start mixing of course!
Like the throngs of others, I too plan to bake up a little something Irish or do I? I did a bit of digging and it turns out the first to bake up a "soda" bread were the Native Americans but no matter, I have no "plan" for the soda bread no matter who made it first. That said, I (think) will use a combination of whole wheat pastry flour and all purpose flour. I will use butter, eggs and buttermilk and if you have not guessed, I will use baking soda. I am toying with the idea of using a touch of yeast as well since the tangy taste yeast adds might be fabulous BUT yeast and whole wheat don't always play well together so I am still mulling this over. I am also planning to use light brown sugar instead of white sugar because its caramel taste will compliment the earthiness of the whole wheat pastry flour. I will also use 1-2 teaspoons of sea salt. Finally, I will place it on a lined sheet pan (not in a tin) and make an "X" on the top to both ward off evil (as is tradition) and help the loaf to bake evenly and bake the loaf at 375 degrees, most likely 40-60 minutes, depending upon its size..
My loaf is not for "purists" because I am adding sugar, butter and probably eggs. My aim is to produce a tender and yummy loaf; besides, there is no judging here at Mary's Kitchen. If you like to add a little grated orange zest, raisins, seeds or nuts you are not a purist either and are baking what is called a "spotted dog" loaf and that's okay by me. No matter what you bake, I hope you share what you are doing/did for St. Patrick's Day in the comments section and also your favorite Soda Bread guide.
Avid home cook and passionate instructor