Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda BreadPandemic Patty’s Day
I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day over the weekend because I decided to corn my own beef this year. And, since the cooking time is measured in hours, there was no way I would be able to make it on a Wednesday night. Hence the Saturday night celebration.

We had all the fixin’s: Corned beef, Champ (a.k.a. mashed potatoes with fresh chives), Irish butter, cabbage, and of course, the Guinness—which was in the cake as well as a pint glass. I also made Irish soda bread. But, here’s where things got sideways.

Soda bread is probably the easiest bread product you could possibly make. And, warm out of the oven with a generous smear of Irish butter…it’s heaven. I feel compelled to say that the soda bread you often see with the currents and/or caraway is not authentic Irish soda bread. Neither is the sweeter scone-like version. Tasty? Yes. Authentic? No. Traditionally soda bread is made with half wheat flour and half all-purpose flour. Last Saturday, this is where everything went wrong.

Like thousands of other people, I stocked up last year with ingredients for my pantry that were rapidly disappearing. Because of the lockdown I used a lot of those items. But, there were some that I didn’t use as much as I thought I would. I still have a significant collection of dried beans. Another example? My White Whole Wheat flour from King Arthur.

I knew the bag I had in the cupboard was old and I even bought a new one and had it on the shelf ready to go. For the life of me I can’t explain why I didn’t throw the old one out. I didn’t and I used the old one by mistake. Needless to say, the soda bread tasted stale right out of the oven—not a good experience to be sure and a big disappointment for me personally. I was looking forward to the bread.

Tonight I will be making another batch, this time with fresh flour. I have also started what I call the Pandemic Purge and have been going through my canned goods and everything else I stocked up on to see what’s expired. Thankfully, the Guinness is just fine.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!!

Traditional Irish Soda Bread
Yields 1 loaf

Ingredients
225 grams (1-3/4 cup plus two tablespoons) all-purpose flour
225 grams (2 cups) whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 cups buttermilk, more as needed

Directions
Make the dough
Heat oven to 450º F.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt and baking soda. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk.

Mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl. Sometimes using your hand works best. The dough should be soft but not wet and sticky.

Knead the dough
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and knead it lightly for a few seconds. Pat the dough into a round about 1-1/2 inches thick. Place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet and using a sharp knife, cut a deep cross in the center of the dough reaching out all the way to the sides.

Bake the bread
Bake the bread for 15 minutes. Then reduce the oven temperature to 400º F and continue to bake until the top is golden brown and the bottom of the bread sounds hollow when tapped (about 30 minutes longer).

Serve warm.

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