I'm a bit late for a St. Pat's Day staple, but Irish Soda Bread works well year round, and the beauty of it is that it is made with ingredients that are found in most kitchens, and it comes together very quickly. Also, there is almost nothing better than home baked bread, fresh from the oven, slathered in butter!
Irish Soda Bread is unique to Ireland. It came into existence in the 1840's when bicarbonate of soda was first introduced to Ireland. Bicarbonate of soda is used to leaven bread in lieu of yeast and kneading. Using simple ingredients, even the poorest families could have bread at mealtimes. Whole wheat or white flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk were the basic ingredients. Irish immigrants who prospered in America began to add eggs, sugar, raisins and other ingredients. The following recipe results in a delicious and quick Irish Soda Bread.
IRISH SODA BREAD.
* 4 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 cup white sugar
* 2 eggs
* 1-1/4 cups buttermilk (See note below.)
* 1/4 cup vegetable/corn oil
* 1 cup raisins (optional)
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Prepare baking sheet using silpat, parchment paper, or grease. In a large bowl, stir together all dry ingredients (flour, soda, baking powder, salt and sugar). In a small bowl, stir together the wet ingredients (eggs, buttermilk and oil). Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour in the buttermilk mixture; add the raisins if using; then stir all just until everything comes together. Do not over-mix or the dough will become tough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and with floured hands shape the dough into a ball. Place it on the baking sheet, and cut a large cross in the top with a sharp knife. Bake until golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes.
If you do not have buttermilk on hand, just add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to a cup of milk and allow it to stand for 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, if you are in a hurry, simply microwave the mixture for about 30 seconds.
The end result is a somewhat sweet, somewhat dense bread. I haven't seen it sold locally, but who cares?!? I can make it myself, and so can you!