Saturday, March 15, 2014

Irish Soda Bread

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I baked a loaf of this Irish soda bread. It is not a sweet treat, but rather a slightly buttery, savory quick bread with the tart flavor of buttermilk and nutty notes of whole wheat flour, toasted wheat germ, and oats.

This bread would be delicious with a hardy Irish stew, but we enjoyed it with lighter fare befitting our beautiful springtime day: as the backdrop for an egg and cheese sandwich for lunch, and slathered with butter and peach raspberry preserves for high tea. Happy spring.

Irish Soda Bread

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for kneading and baking
1 cup whole wheat flour, such as Lonesome Whistle Farm red fife
1/2 cup Scottish oats or old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 to 1 1/3 cup buttermilk

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 425 degrees F. Sprinkle a baking sheet lightly with flour. In a dry skillet, toast the wheat germ for a couple of minutes until  fragrant.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the butter and toss to coat in the flour. Use your fingers or two forks to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. (You can also do this in the food processor if you'd like.) Gradually add the buttermilk and stir or pulse just until the dough comes together (you may not need all the buttermilk). (Note: I made the dough in a food processor and used just a cup of buttermilk).

3.  On a floured surface, knead the dough gently for about a minute until smooth. Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to the baking sheet. Pat gently into a 7-inch round and sprinkle the top evenly with about a tablespoon of flour; with your fingertips, gently spread the flour evenly over the top of the round. Using a very sharp knife, cut a shallow "X" in the top of the loaf. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the loaf is brown, and the bottom sounds hollow when you tap it. Cool on a rack for at least 2 hours before slicing.

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