Thursday, March 17, 2011

Kiss Me Even Though I'm Not Irish Soda Bread

I'm not Irish.  Not even a little.  Not even if I'm drunk on Bailey's and singing off key.  That doesn't mean I can't celebrate St. Patrick's Day.  And by celebrate, I mean bake for.  Obviously.

This year, I decided to try my hand at Irish soda bread.  Generally speaking, soda bread has a lot going for it.  One: it's fast and easy and does not require any proofing time whatsoever.  Two: it's an excellent vehicle for butter.  Three:  who needs a three when you have the first two?

My go-to girl Ina Garten made it a while back, so I tracked down her recipe at the always-helpful

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for currants
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk, shaken
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 cup dried currants

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.

With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Combine the currants with 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough. It will be very wet.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound. Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Literate Baker notes:  I didn't toss the currants with flour.  I generally only use that technique with thinner batters.  Also, instead of a sheet pan, I preheated my pizza stone in the oven.  The result was extra crusty yumminess.  Oh, and leave the other half of that stick of butter on the counter.  You're gonna need it.

The overall result?  I've spent every moment since wondering why I haven't been baking Irish soda bread at every possible opportunity.  It literally comes together in minutes.  The texture and great and, with a heavy schmear of butter... wow.  I think it would play well with other flavor additions, too.  Like dried cherries.  Or cheese.

Do yourself a favor and whip up a loaf right this minute.  You'll be so glad you did.  Happy St. Patty's Day all!

O'keep it sweet.
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