The Baker: Great Aunt Anna’s Irish Soda Bread

Sunday March 13, 2011

the most perfect soda bread photo EVER (and looks just like my baking) by one of my favorite food photographers/ © Katie Quinn Davies/http://whatkatieate.blogspot.com

There have been epistles written about Irish soda bread. This recipe is from my mother’s family on her mother’s side, the girls from County Cork, and it still is the best. I got it from my Great Aunt Anna, who kept the recipe her whole married life which is about 70 years. My mother remembered having it when she was a teenager with tea in the afternoon. I am so glad she mentioned it and I got the recipe. When I made it I couldnt believe that I found the best tasting, best textured soda bread after years of making every variation. So its special to me.

Aunt Anna, married to my mom’s uncle, lived across the street from my grandmother in Edison, New Jersey (think Susan Sarandon, who grew up there and Jon Bon Jovi and Michael Douglas in New Brunswich, the next town over, who was born in the same hospital as me). We used to have great Irish parties with the entire family with lots of beer out of a keg in the cellar (my granduncle worked for Ballantine) and there were buffets with the greatest simple, well prepared food. There was never less than 30 to 40 people, most all relatives. When my family moved to California, we left the family behind and all of those years became memories.

Makes great toast, crunchy and tastes just like an English muffin.

Makes 2 round loaves

Ingredients

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold butter or margarine, cut into pieces
  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups cold buttermilk
  • 1 large egg and 1 yolk

Breakfast Irish Soda Bread

  • 1 1/2 cups raisins, or combination golden raisins and tart dried cherries, or finely chopped mixed dried fruit

Irish Soda Seed Bread

  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons caraway seeds

Instructions

1.  Preheat the oven to 400º.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add the butter and cut in with a wooden spoon or dough whisk until soft crumbs are formed.

2.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the buttermilk, 1 whole egg, and 1 egg yolk.  Stir just to moisten.  Add the raisins or caraway seed, if adding.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently, sprinkling with flour as needed to prevent sticking, until the sticky dough just comes together and makes a smooth surface, 5 to 10 times.  You can leave the dough quite soft or a bit stiffer, depending on the density you like your soda bread.  Divide the dough into 2 equal portions and knead each into a round.

shaped dough ready for the oven

3.  Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and double pan by placing another pan of the same size underneath to prevent burning.  Beat the extra egg white with a teaspoon of water and brush the tops of the loaves if you like an extra crunchy crust.  I like mine dusted with flour.  With a sharp knife, slash the tops with a large X about 1/2-inch deep.  Bake in the middle of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until dark brown and crusty.  A cake tester inserted into the center of the X will come out clean.  Serve warm or room temperature. Best eaten the same day it is baked.


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