brown irish soda bread
Yesterday was incredible. On Wednesdays, I have to be at work at 7am. This is awfully early for a non-morning person and for some reason, yesterday was particularly difficult. It was one of those days where you stand in the shower, under the hot water and just stare into space. I was nearly catatonic. Somehow, I pulled myself together after only allowing myself about 20 minutes to get up, get ready and dash out the door. The drive down the peninsula was uneventful, nearly easy, if not for the sleepwalking state I was in. At about 6:45 and one exit to my destination I received a phone call. The voice on the other line told me that clinic was cancelled. It was a sign. God wanted me to go back to my warm, squishy bed to snuggle with my darling. And so I did.
As I was driving home, after a short stop for a soy au lait, I was considering all of the amazing things I could do with my free day. I knew for sure that part of my day would be spent sleeping (obvious choice) but then what? I had a long list of to-do’s in my head that I had been meaning to accomplish in the last few weeks, but just didn’t have the time for, like pickling, preserving delicious summer fruit, cleaning out the fridge, going to the zoo, and making bread. Out of all of the things I could think to do, making bread won out (along with the zoo! scroll to the bottom for a zoo portrait!). I had dearly missed my house smelling of freshly baked bread, so I went looking through my pantry for the necessary ingredients, and I realized I was nearly out of whole wheat flour, so my usual whole wheat sandwich bread wasn’t an option. I wanted something with some whole wheat flour that could also be put together quickly. I remembered there was an irish soda bread recipe I had been dying to try since about March. Soda breads are almost like a giant biscuit, so I knew that I would have the materials and time to pull it off.
This bread is so rewarding, so quickly. It’s mixed just like biscuit dough, it’s in the oven in about 20 minutes and yet it tastes just like bread. For a weeknight meal when you’d like to have fresh-baked bread on the table but didn’t plan ahead for a yeasted loaf, this is your solution. It is dense enough to be the bread for a mean grilled cheese sandwich and light enough to be a raft for a smoked salmon appetizer. Just a side note, it is better the day you bake it, so try to eat it all up while it’s fresh and in its prime.
I’d like to see how it tastes with some fresh herbs and black pepper in the batter, because I think it cries out for some adaptation. I smothered my pieces with a lemon and thyme compound butter which was quite delicious and bright. I think cheese would also be a welcome addition, either in the bread or melted on top. Give this bread a try, put your own twist on it and let me know how it turns out!
Brown Irish Soda Bread
The New Best Recipe
makes one loaf
- 1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) lower-protein unbleached all-purpose flour, such as Gold Medal or Pillsbury
- 1 1/4 cups (6 7/8 ounces) whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup plain cake flour
- 1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 tablespoon melted butter for the crust
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Whisk the flours, wheat germ, brown sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt together in a large bowl. Work the softened butter into the dry ingredients with a fork or your fingertips until the texture resembles coarse crumbs. (This was nearly indiscernible for me. I just mixed until there were no large butter clumps.)
- Add the buttermilk and stir with a fork just until the dough begins to come together. Turn out onto a flour-coated work surface; knead just until the dough becomes cohesive and bumpy, 12 to 14 turns. (Do not knead until the dough is smooth, or the bread will be tough.)
- Pat the dough into a round about 6 inches in diameter and 2 inches high; place on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet. Score the dough by cutting a cross shape that is 5 inches long in each direction and 3/4 inch deep in the top of the loaf.
- Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean or the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees, 45 to 55 minutes. Remove the loaf from the oven and brush the surface with the melted butter; cool to room temperature, 30 to 40 minutes.