Monday, March 14, 2011

Irish Soda Bread

Like scones, if you've only tasted dry poorly made Irish Soda Bread you're never going to give it a chance again. You'll see it in the store and think, I don't like that bread. It's dry and boring.
But I say, forget buying it and bake this's easy and moist and with the unexpected but subtle taste of orange zest, it's so good!

With St Patrick's Day a few days away, it's just a perfect time for Irish Soda Bread...well, all things Irish, but this is my choice for today. I researched several recipes and decided on this one. I checked with Rachel Allen's recipe, trying to see if there would be any different ingredients, coming from an Irish chef but her bread sounded a little too basic so I opted for one of my favorites, the Barefoot Contessa. I actually saw her make this bread a few weeks ago on her show on Food Network and it looked so easy and delicious. And it is!

I love the free form of the bread and after I baked it, I thought it would make two smaller loaves or even four really smaller loaves. How cute would that be? The recipe uses an egg, which some recipes do not, and I think that helps give a nice richness and moistness to the bread. And that little bit of orange zest just gives it another wonderful flavor, but if you want a more traditional bread I'm sure you can just leave it out and it will still be great.

All else that's needed is a smear of sweet butter. So good!

Begin by placing the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl...

Add in the cold cubed butter and work in the butter with your fingers. (Ina says to mix with the paddle attachment but this didn't really incorporate the butter enough for me).

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg, buttermilk and orange zest together.

Just a photo showing that I had to use my fingers to combine in the butter.

Then with the mixer on low speed, pour in the egg/buttermilk mixture and mix to combine.

Then add in the floured currants( or raisins) and stir just to incorporated it all together.

Dump the dough onto a floured work surface and knead just a few times to form a ball. ( Some of the little currants try to get away!)

Cut an "X" on top of the dough with a serrated knife.

Place the loaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for about 45 minutes.

Irish Soda Bread ( from The Barefoot Contessa)
Makes one large loaf

4 cups AP flour ( I used King Arthur and it weighed 18 ozs. total)
4 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
4 tbsp. cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk, shaken
1 extra large egg, lightly beaten ( I used a large egg and it was fine)
1 tsp. grated orange zest
1 cup dried currants ( or raisins)
Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
1. Combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer.
2. Add in the butter pieces and work in the cold butter with your fingers til it's all nicely combined with some butter pieces still the size of peas.
3. With a fork, lightly beat together the egg, buttermilk and orange zest in a small bowl or glass measuring cup.
4. With mixer (hand held or standing) on low speed, slowly add in the wet ingredients.
5. Combine the currants (or raisins) with a tablespoon of flour and add in to the dough mixing just til blended.
6. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead a few times and form into a ball.
7. Place the dough onto the parchment lined sheet and cut an "X" into the top with a serrated knife.
8. Bake about 45 minutes, or til a tester comes out clean.
9. Cool bread on a wire rack. Slice and serve warm or at room temperature with plenty of sweet butter!

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