Irish Soda Bread

I've realised that there are a lot of weird things I consider Irish: the colour green and shamrocks, of course, but also archery, a girl who only has brothers, Tuesdays, peg legs, the number eleven and fog. I don't know where most of those things came from, but I'd hazard a guess that if you dug deeply enough, you'd find traces of Eleanor's best friend, my Aunt Margie, in there somewhere. Margie, as we've discussed before, was about as Irish as they come, and I assumed that her presence in Eleanor's life was the reason I couldn't find any Irish recipes in the recipe box when I searched it in advance of St. Patrick's Day last year.

But then a terrible thing happened, and on 18 March of last year, I found a recipe for Irish Soda Bread in the box. One day too late to put it to use for St. Patrick's Day, I knew I'd have to hold onto it until this year... because who knows, maybe it's bad luck to make soda bread on other days if you live in Scotland.

So here we are, a year later, and I've been dying to share this with you ever since I made it two weeks ago. I made this bread with every intention of taking it to work with me, but then I tasted it and I was smitten... so smitten I couldn't bare to share. Judson liked it so much he went back for seconds when we cut into it, and we savoured every last bite until the loaf was gone.

Having just spent a few days in Belfast last month, I never thought my soda bread would measure up to what I tasted while we were there (and oh, man, the food in Belfast was incredible). But then I made this bread and, though it had a different texture than the smooth, velvety soda bread we ate at every chance in Northern Ireland, it was so good.* Sweet and moist with a crunchy crust and a perfectly chewy centre, stitched through with currants and warm butter, this bread is the perfect way to embrace the Irish roots you know you've always wanted.

Plus, it's shaped like a shamrock, so, I mean, what better time of year to whip yourself up a loaf?

If you can't get your hands on currants, it's no big deal: swap them for golden raisins, dried cherries or just leave them out. This bread doesn't need any dressing up: serve it warm from the oven doused in melted butter and sprinkled with powdered sugar and that's all you need for a delicious, warming breakfast treat.

*I'm pretty sure a real Irish person would not qualify this as soda bread, but, since St. Patrick's Day these days is more of a non-Irish holiday anyway, who am I to quibble?

The verdict:

5 spoons out of five. This is the perfect early spring, warming, toasty breakfast to help you celebrate St. Patrick's Day (or any day!) in style.

One Year ago: Creamy, Dreamy Cheesecake

The recipe:

Irish Soda Bread

the directions:

Preheat oven to 190C/375F.
Lightly grease a small baking sheet.
Into a large mixing bowl, sift flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Mix in butter until mixture looks like coarse crumbs.
Add raisins and stir until just combined.
Add buttermilk and stir with a fork until dry ingredients are uniformly moistened.
Turn out onto floured counter and knead just until smooth (30 seconds-ish).
Shape into a ball and place on prepared baking sheet.
Press into a flattened circle with a diameter a little longer than your hand.
Coat a sharp knife in flour and slice in half almost all the way to the bottom of the loaf, then turn 90 degrees and repeat to divide loaf into quarters that are still connected at the bottom.
Bake 20-25 minutes until top of loaf is golden and sounds hollow when tapped.
Remove from oven, brush with melted butter, and sprinkle loaf with powdered sugar.
Serve immediately because it's too good not to, but bread will last for three more days if kept in an airtight container.

the ingredients:

2 c flour, sifted
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking soda
3 tbsp butter, softened, plus extra for melting
½ tsp salt
1 c buttermilk
½ c currants