I really truly meant to post this earlier in the week, but life has a way of getting…well, in the way. Don’t worry – there’s still time for you to gather the ingredients to make this incredible Irish Soda Bread for St. Patrick’s Day this Saturday.
I’ve been asked a few times if I have plans for St. Patrick’s Day. My standard answer has been that I did enough St. Patrick’s Day partying during college to last me an entire lifetime. I’ve really had enough. One March 17, my senior year of college, I believe I spent 19 hours straight in Eamonn’s (pictured here, shortly before it was demolished in 2008). Skipped classes, started with breakfast at around 9am, and drank until the bar closed at 4. The memories are foggy, to say the least.
The real answer is that I actually DO have plans for part of St. Patrick’s Day, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy. All will be revealed very, very soon. And I think more than a few of you will be surprised at where I was and what I was doing (nothing illegal or immoral, I promise).
On to the bread. I know that’s why you’re here.
My bestie Shannon sent me her family’s Irish Soda Bread recipe, along with the following note:
Don’t worry, it’s not a sacred family recipe or anything but we have used this particular recipe for as long as I can remember. There is one change to the recipe that isn’t in there. We soak the raisins the Jameson [Irish Whiskey] for 24 hours prior and it tastes delicious. People soak them in other types of alcohol too. It certainly helps to keep the raisins from soaking up the moisture in the bread while baking.
I’m grateful to Shannon and her family for sharing the recipe – especially the part about the whiskey! Wow. As always, my comments/adjustments/frustrations are in blue.
To all of my readers, Sláinte!
Irish Soda Bread
- 4 cups sifted flour
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons caraway seeds
- ¼ cup butter
- 2 cup raisins
- 1-1/3 cup buttermilk
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 egg yolk, beaten
The day before, place the raisins in a container with enough whiskey to cover (I used Dewar’s White Label, but Jameson Irish Whiskey would be more holiday-appropriate). Let the raisins soak in the whiskey for 24 hours or so. Drain.
Sift flour, sugar, salt and baking powder into mixing bowl ; stir in caraway seeds. Cut in butter until mixture looks like coarse meal; stir in raisins. Uh, I forgot to add the raisins at this point. I added them later.
Combine buttermilk, 1 egg and baking soda; stir into flour mixture just enough to moisten dry ingredients. The dough will be VERY wet & sticky at this point.
Turn onto floured board and knead lightly until dough is smooth.You’ll probably need to add a good amount of flour at this point to bring the dough out of major stickiness. It’s okay if it’s still a bit sticky as you continue.
Shape in a ball and place in a greased 2 qt. casserole. With sharp knife, cut a 4″ cross about ½” deep in center of dough (this makes a decorative top). Brush with egg yolk.
Bake in moderate oven (375°) about 1 hour, or until a cake tester or wooden pick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean.
Cool bread in casserole 10 minutes; remove. Cool on wire rack before cutting. To serve, cut down through loaf to divide in quarters; thinly slice each quarter. Makes one loaf.
- First, the reaction from one of my co-workers: “Holy Shit Snacks!” That’s a quote. I believe the phrase comes from some naughty cartoon he’s trying to get me to watch, but no matter – he liked it. As did my other coworkers, who used polite language to express their pleasure.
- Seriously, this is the best damned Irish Soda Bread I’ve ever made.
- My house smelled like a small-scale distillery for a while as I was making this. Not a drawback.
- When I was adding the caraway seeds, I was worried that it was going to be too much; it was definitely not. The pungent spiciness of the seeds (fruits, actually) was balanced by the sweetness of the raisins and the tang of the residual whiskey.
- I ate half of the loaf myself.
Since I’m more than a little bit Irish, you’d think I’d have my own family recipe for soda bread. No. But, my uncle does. He was kind enough to share with me his very own recipe, which won a medal at the 1994 Thomas Dongan Fèis, an annual Irish cultural festival in Albany, NY that I’d never heard of before I just Googled it. Click this link for a PDF of Lynch’s Irish Soda Bread.