Food for Friday – Traditional Irish Soda Bread

I am powerless against Irish Soda Bread straight from the oven. Dense, warm, with an almost pretzly-tasting crust – before I even knew what was happening I had eaten a quarter of a loaf. I am a carb lover through and through, with any type of homemade bread topping the list. This is probably the easiest homemade bread there is. This recipe is another one from Melissa Clark, and apparently she got it directly from Ireland. It’s so simple it’s dangerous – no rising, no waiting, nothing complicated. And it’s absolutely best when warm, so make sure you eat as much of it as possible right away. I served it with Irish lamb stew, just to make my kids, Seamus and Meara, live up to their names.

Traditional Irish Soda Bread

3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, or use 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour and 1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 cups buttermilk or yogurt mixed with a little milk, or additional as needed

Softened butter, for serving

(Note: I used Mark Bittman’s substitute for buttermilk, which is to bring 1 3/4 cups regular milk to room temperature, add 2 tbsp white vinegar, and let it “clabber” or curdle which takes about 10 minutes. So you don’t even need to have buttermilk in the house!)

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk or yogurt. Using your hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl. The dough should be soft but not wet and sticky. If it’s dry, add a little more buttermilk or yogurt.

2. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface. Wash and dry your hands. Knead the dough lightly for a few seconds, then pat the dough into a round about 1 1/2 inches thick. Place it on a buttered baking sheet and, using a sharp knife, cut a deep cross in the center of the dough, reaching out all the way to the sides.

3. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees F and continue to bake until the top is golden brown and the bottom of the bread sounds hollow when tapped, 25 to 30 minutes longer. Serve warm with butter.

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