Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bastardized Irish Soda Bread

I wasn't going to do Irish Soda Bread this year. Or ever really. It's one of those things that I tried like a million years ago, didn't like, and had decided, nope, not for me. It's dry, it's crumbly, it doesn't taste very good, I thought. Then March hit, and the American addiction to Irishness was out in full force. Recipes popped up for stews, potato dishes, and that blasted bread. When Smitten Kitchen succumbed a few days ago with Soda Bread Scones, I read the post with a bit of bemusement at the international addiction to bad bread. Then I saw a link to a previous post from a few years ago, for Deb's standby Irish Soda Bread.

It turns out in 2007 she had done a soda bread out of the NY Times that had turned out wonderfully. Following the trail to the original article, I realized why. This recipe does what American do best, take an idea from another country, and then manipulate it to the point that is completely unrecognizable to the original culture. We are especially good at this when it comes to the products of the Emerald Isle. We took their music and turned it into Tin Pan Alley, and then proceed to look at them strange when they don't know what "Tura Lura Lura" is. The Irish did not, I repeat, did not invent Corned Beef and Cabbage, we inflicted that horror show on ourselves. And despite all of the coconut flavored "Irish Potato" candy being sold in the Philadelphia area right now, you will find very few coconuts in Dublin. I checked. For the most part, I don't think our changes to the Irish culture have improved these things much. True Irish music is awesome, I'd rather listen to the Chieftains then that song about Tipperary. The Irish make Bacon and Cabbage, and I would WAY rather eat bacon the corned beef (sorry mom.) And you readers know what good candy Ireland really has.

The Soda Bread, however, is an area where I think improvements stand to be made. Traditional soda bread includes only flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk. Ick. The recipe used by the New York Times, Smitten Kitchen, and now myself involves wonderful things like sugar (and lots of it,) butter, and raisins. As I put together my modified "Irish" bread, it occurred to me that with my complete German heritage but newly minted Irish last name, I'm a bit of an American knock-off of Irishness myself!

"Irish" Soda Bread
Adapted (barely) from the NY Times

-Butter for greasing pan plus 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
-3 cups all-purpose flour
-2/3 cup sugar
-1 tablespoon baking powder-1 1/2 teaspoons salt
-1 teaspoon baking soda1
-3/4 cups buttermilk
-2 eggs, well beaten
-1 1/2 cups raisins or currants
-1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch oven-proof skillet and line with parchment or waxed paper.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just combined. Do not overmix. Stir in the raisins or currants and caraway seeds.

Pour batter into skillet. Brush top with remaining butter. Bake until golden and firm to touch, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool 10 minutes before slicing.
The American bastardization is more like cake, and I've been enjoying it all week with butter spread on it along with my coffee or tea in the morning. The NY Times recommends serving it with really good Irish cheddar and apple slices. However you eat it, you will find it nice and crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, a bit sweet but definitely savory. And if nothing else, it will probably soak up a lot of alcohol, which will be helpful as you drink that oh so authentic green beer.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


denise @ quickies on the dinner table said...

Sounds and looks wonderful! I too have had my doubts about authentic Irish soda bread as the recipes always seemed too basic to really taste good, so I never made it. I would like to try this one though! Thanks for sharing!

Peggy said...

sometimes little tweaks make it all the better!

Laura said...

Awesome... I made soda bread this year too with a very similar recipe that came over from Ireland with family. All in all its not too far off from this one... maybe its only mildly bastardized! Happy St. Pats to you and yours
-Laura :)

Anne Keefe said...

traditional Irish Soda bread is pretty good if toasted with a lot of butter... either that or I made it wrong this year. Oh St. Patrick's Day- How I love thee and all your food. Heather- I felt like you this St. Patrick's Day brewing up some Irish Soda Bread, Corn Beef & Cabbage in the crock pot, carrot cake with Baileys Cream Frosting, Irish Lace Cookies and some champ all so complete with REAL (not 3.2 alc p/v) and starting my day of with Baileys coffee.. YUM!

Aron said...

I'd say this looks better than soda bread!

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