Sunday, March 13, 2011

Irish Soda Bread NO. 2

Yup, that's the official name of this soda bread.  Sometime back in the 1980's my mother-in-law gave me a cookbook that was a collection of recipes compiled by the parishioners of her church.  The cookbook was sold as a fundraiser for San Antonio de Padua Catholic Church in Anaheim Hills, California.  They titled it "From the The Monk's Kitchen".  It's a sweet little cookbook full of family recipes; some good, some not so good and some are true gems.

My mother made Irish Soda Bread every St. Patty's day.  She is Irish, McLaughlin is her maiden name,  and always cooked up a corned beef and cabbage dinner along with her soda bread to celebrate the day.  When I was in high school, my friends and I would cut school take a day off and go to the parade in the city.  It was always nice to come home to a warm house filled with the smell of soda bread baking after traveling on the train with a bunch of drunken fools.  When my brother and I moved out of the house she continued the tradition, inviting her brothers and sisters to a St. Patty's day celebration.  She did that for a few years and eventually moved to Florida.  I don't think she ever baked another Irish Soda Bread after leaving New York.  I remember asking her for her recipe, but she had misplaced it in the move.  When I visited her in Florida, my mother gave me 5 files boxes of recipes, and a big box of recipes clipped from newspapers and magazines that hadn't made it to her index cards yet.  She told me to take them all home and keep what I want.  Her cooking days were over, and if she was going to cook anything, she had every recipe she wanted in her head.  I took the recipes and sorting through them was a daunting task.  She had so many Irish Soda Bread recipes, but none looked stained and used, like her other favorite recipes.  Could she have gotten it from a cookbook?  I started looking for a recipe in my own cookbooks when I came across this one "From the Monk's Kitchen".

Father Seamus contributed two soda bread recipes to this book.  They are called Irish Soda Bread NO.1 and Irish Soda Bread No.2.  Intriguing titles, huh?  Heck, with a name like Father Seamus, how could I go wrong.  I was immediately drawn to the NO. 2 recipe.  It had raisins, a touch of sugar and optional caraway seeds.  I like soda bread with caraway.  I usually make several loaves of soda bread this time of year, omitting caraway from one or two loaves for those with a caraway aversion.  I had to experiment with this recipe at first.  You see,  since it is a recipe from a church group, they probably didn't do much proof reading.  The recipe fails to say how long to bake it and at what temperature.  It did't take long to get it right and tweak the recipe slightly.  It has become my favorite soda bread.  I would always bring a loaf to my friend's annual St. Patty's Day celebration.  Lorraine would always say, "We have enough soda bread for tonight.  I'm hiding yours for our private stash to have tomorrow!"  The next year I brought 2, one for now, one for later!  The beautiful thing about this recipe is it yields 2 loaves at a time.  Share a loaf with someone you love!

Irish Soda Bread NO. 2

Adapted from Father Seamus' recipe
Yields 2 loaves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Lightly grease and flour 2 pie pans or 8" round cake pans

  • 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 cup butter, cut into cube and slightly softened
  • 1 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoons caraway seeds (optional)

Combine 4 cups of the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl either by hand, or in the bowl of a standing mixer using the paddle attachment.

Add butter with pastry blender if mixing by hand, or mix with the paddle attachment until mixture looks crumbly.  
Mix in caraway and raisins.

Beat egg into the buttermilk.
If using a stand mixer, take off paddle and put on dough hook.  Add egg-buttermilk mixture to the dry mixture, mixing until it comes together.  Batter will be sticky.  Sprinkle dough with 1/4 cup of flour and knead for about 2 minutes, adding a little more flour if necessary. Turn out onto floured board.   If you are hand mixing, mix in the liquids and add the flour a little at a time (about 1/4 cup) until dough can be handled without sticking to your hands.
  Turn it out onto a floured board and knead until smooth.

On the floured board, divide dough in half and shape into round loaf.
Place loaves in prepared pans. Do not press it down.
Using a sharp knife, cut crosses 1/2 inch deep into each loaf.
Bake 45-50 minutes at 375 degrees.
Cool on a rack for at least an hour before cutting.

No comments:

Post a Comment