I have no idea as to why, but I never had Irish soda bread until last year when I picked up a loaf from a local bakery to take to my friend’s house on my way to her St. Patrick’s day dinner. It was sitting on the seat next to me, and because of the wonderful aroma it filled my car with, I had a very difficult time leaving it alone until I reached her home. Not only did it smell like fresh-baked bread, but there was a definite sweetness to it, and a wonderfully rich smell. For some reason I always thought that Irish soda bread was a dry, tough, and chewy bread; but when we sliced into it at dinner and I had my first bite, I could not have been more wrong.
I was met with one of the most moist, creamy, buttery, and rich breads I’d ever encountered. Even the little raisins in the bread had plumped up with moisture and turned into soft little bursts of sweetness loaded into the loaf. The key to all the moisture is the thick buttermilk, whose high protein and moisture content keeps the bread from drying out when baking. So if you aren’t sure what to make for St. Patrick’s day, forget the stews, forget the Guinness cupcakes, and go straight for the fresh-baked soda bread. It can be enjoyed alongside dishes both sweet and savory, but in my opinion it’s best enjoyed standing on its own, smeared with a soft dollop of butter, so you can truly appreciate the depth of it’s traditional flavor.
I also shared this recipe over on Coca Cola's blog, Journey, where I am excited to say that I will be contributing regularly, hurray! And I'm still hacking away at editing all those Thailand photos. After sorting them into folders I came to the somewhat nerve-wracking realization that there are over 2,500 of them. Sooooooo yeah. It may be a few more weeks still until I'm able to post about it. But I'm still planning on sharing some tasty Thailand-inspired scones before then to hold you over along with some of my favorite instagrams from the trip, which you can take a sneak peek at here. Until then, I wish you all a joyous and feastful Saint Patrick's day, full of good food and drink. And be safe y'all, that's what lyft is for.
3 and 3/4 cups bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup raisins
1/3 cup chopped dates
1/4 cup butter, cold
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon honey
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, raisins, and dates until combined and the raisins and dates are coated in the flour mixture. Grate the butter over the bowl on the largest hole setting, pausing and stirring the mixture every 10 seconds or so to coat the butter pieces in the flour mixture. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, orange zest, and honey until the honey has dissolved into the liquid. Add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and knead it together with your hands until a dough forms. Take the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it for 3-4 turns, or until it comes together and has smoothed out a bit. Shape the dough into a ball, cover it, and place it in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator, uncover it, and place it on a lightly greased 9-inch baking pan, patting it a couple times so it is slightly flattened on top. Use a sharp knife to score a 1-inch deep cross in the top of the dough right before placing it in the oven. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until it’s golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the dough comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before slicing and serving.