It’s daffodil time. Daffodils are a sure sign of spring, right? I mean with a jar of beautiful perky yellow blooms on your table you can’t possibly be faced with more snow. Right? RIGHT?
*sigh* Probably not.
Anyway… it’s also time for Irish soda bread.
And tons of different kinds of Irish soda bread. Everyone seems to have their own version of it, don’t they? I do stand by the fact that it ought not to have raisins or caraway seeds in it (even though I really like experimenting & having fun with my recipes). Authentically it’s just straight up & basic. Don’t believe me? Here, read this:
Epicurious: What about the version with butter, raisins, and caraway?
Rory O’Connell: No. That would be regarded as being some sort of exotic bread that wasn’t Irish.
Epicurious: What is your personal opinion about soda bread variations?
Rory O’Connell: I think some are fine. I love plain white soda bread or brown soda bread, but [at Ballymaloe] we also do variations on the theme, using that simple, easy-to-prepare recipe as a vehicle for adding other ingredients—cheese, herbs, olives, roast cherry tomatoes, red onion, garlic. But then we don’t say, “This is an Irish soda bread with sun-dried tomatoes.” We say, “It’s a sun-dried tomato bread made on an Irish soda bread base.” But in a way I don’t mind too much what people are doing with it as long as they’re baking.
AUTHENTIC WHITE SODA BREAD (from Epicurious, who got it from Bon Appetit May 1996)
- 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons caraway seeds (optional)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups (about) buttermilk
- Preheat oven to 425° F. Lightly flour baking sheet.
- Mix flour, caraway seeds, if using, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Mix in enough buttermilk to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball. Turn out onto lightly flour surface and knead just until dough holds together, about 1 minute.
- Shape dough into 6-inch-diameter by 2-inch-high round. Place on prepared baking sheet. Cut 1-inch-deep X across top of bread, extending almost to edges.
- Bake until bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, about 35 minutes. Transfer bread to rack and cool completely.
Don’t get me wrong: I love ALL Irish soda bread. There aren’t many I’d turn down. But it’s definitely nice to have a plain, simple, authentic one that tastes great slathered with butter along side a hearty Guinness stout beef pie. Or piled high will corned beef. Or… some lemon-orange whiskey marmalade.
I hope you try this, even if you have a recipe you love.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!