Irish Soda Bread
Irish soda bread is one of the perfect foods: easy, quick, cheap and always satisfying. No yeast, no rising, no kneading: you just mix it up and bake it. Of course I make it for Saint Patty's Day - my wife and in-laws are Irish so I score lots of points – but I also make it throughout the year. I give it as a gift, we eat it for breakfast, it's our bread at dinner. I'm always a hero when I make Irish soda bread, which when you consider how easy it is makes no sense at all.
I'm not Irish – I'm half Polish, half English – so my first exposure to Irish soda bread was as an adult. I was in architecture school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the late 70's, and so was frequently found at the architecture hangout, the Harvest Restaurant – founded by architect Ben Thompson, tastemaker for a generation (he created Design Research, which popularized Marimekko and was later absorbed by Crate and Barrel). I had a lot of good times and great meals at the Harvest but the memory that's stayed with me most is that the bread basket always included fresh wedges of Irish soda bread. I didn't know then what it was but I loved it from the first bite.
The Harvest soda bread always had caraway seeds and currants so my version does too. I hope you enjoy this simple pleasure, not only for St. Patrick's Day but also throughout the year.
Irish Soda Bread
Makes 1 loaf
This recipe calls for baking the bread on an oven stone, using a wooden peel to handle the bread. That method produces the best crust but there are other options: the bread can be baked on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan – lined with parchment paper – or in a skillet prepared with a spritz of cooking spray.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons granulated no-calorie sweetener, such as Splenda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 tablespoons butter, chilled, cut into 3/8" cubes and frozen 30 minutes
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2/3 cup raisins or currants
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
- 1 tablespoon sugar
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Place flour, granulated no-calorie sweetener, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a food processor bowl and pulse three or four times to combine.
3. Add the frozen chunks of butter. Pulse repeatedly until the mixture feels like coarse corn meal.
4. Pour the flour/butter mixture into a roomy mixing bowl. With a wooden spoon, make a well in the center of the mixture. Add the buttermilk gradually, stirring constantly to combine.
5. Sir in the raisins and caraway seeds.
6. Turn the dough onto a floured board. Using floured hands, shape dough into a flattened round about 8" in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with the remaining one tablespoon of sugar. Spread corn meal on the peel and transfer the dough to the peel. Slide the dough onto the stone.
7. Bake bread until brown, about 25 - 35 minutes. A tester inserted into center should come out clean, or a thump on the bottom crust with your thumb should produce a hollow sound.
Cool bread on a rack for 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, within 24 hours.
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