Remember how, about this time last year, I was really gung-ho about making bread? I wrote about it, found a bunch more recipes that I wanted to make, and then … never made another loaf. It’s that whole yeast thing. I don’t even like saying the word. It’s a fungus. And I have yet to find a discernible shred of fun in fungus.
Thankfully, the Irish seem equally uninterested in yeast, since their brown breads and soda breads don’t use any. And any time you can create a hearty, slightly sweet, subtly salty, crisp craggy-crusted, plush-interiored loaf without fungi, I’m ready. The fact that it pairs equally beautifully with salted sweet cream butter, raspberry jam or sharp Irish cheddar is just another reason why you should start your St. Patrick’s Day with a little soda bread.
The recipe, from Barefoot Contessa, is
easy as pie easier than pie.* It requires only one bowl and a spoon, minimal effort (my biceps barely got a workout!) and aside from extreme stickiness, no drama. The stickiness is very serious though — make sure that your work surfaces and hands are well-floured. It’s the kind of thing that’s perfect for preparing yourself for day’s worth of drinking — and if there are leftovers, for topping with a fried egg and bacon for a modified Irish breakfast the morning after.
*I’ve always wondered about this phrase. To me, pie is not particularly easy, as pie dough can be extremely tricky and then you have to figure out a filling. Meanwhile, this bread requires only one bowl and zero fussiness. But perhaps “easy as Irish soda bread” doesn’t quite have the same ring …
Irish Soda Bread
Adapted from Ina Garten
– 2 tablespoons lemon juice
– 1-3/4 cups cold whole milk
– 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for currants
– 4 tablespoons sugar
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
– 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
– 1 large egg, lightly beaten
1) Stir the lemon juice into the whole milk and set aside (this is your pseudo-buttermilk). Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
2) Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Mix in the butter until it clumps with the flour.
3) With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk and egg together. Add the liquid to the flour mixture, and stir until the batter comes together — it will be very sticky and wet.
4) Dump the dough onto a (very) well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife.
5) Bake for 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound. Cool the loaf slightly on a baking rack before slicing into pieces and serving with butter, jam or Irish cheddar. (Try the cheddar-raspberry combination. It’s pretty awesome.)