Seriously, I think I have a playful leprechaun in my kitchen because I attempted to make several really cute green desserts for St. Patrick’s Day and let’s just say, they didn’t work out! I didn’t even bother to take pictures of my two attempts at green marshmallows and the green “fudge” is sitting in my fridge uneaten. Even my green contribution for my upcoming Pi Day blog swap (come back on 3/14 to check that out), required a redo. So pretty much I was about to call it quits on St. Patrick’s Day recipes and move on to the next holiday. Fortunately, though, I moved on from the ‘green’ theme and had much much better success with this 4-Ingredient Irish Soda Bread recipe!
When I think of Saint Patrick’s Day, Irish Soda Bread is one of the first foods that comes to mind since my mom usually baked a loaf to have with dinner each March 17th. To be honest, I was never a huge fan of the raisins within it so other than making it one time a few years ago to check the box when baking through Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, I was never all that motivated to try it again. However I came upon this recipe in a book I recently acquired about Irish pub cuisine and I knew I’d give it a go. It was just too easy not to try!
In working on this post I wanted to learn a little more about what makes this bread Irish, and was it really traditional (you know, like sesame chicken is not the highlight of cuisine in China). So, it actually is traditional, but not an ancient recipe, as apparently bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), the key ingredient, was only introduced to Ireland in the mid-1800s. The other fun fact I learned was that cutting a cross on the top of the loaf of bread with a knife was another tradition, to ward off evil and protect the household. Hopefully that worked in my home!
As befits tradition, the ingredients I’ve used are the standard four–flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. You can certainly add in raisins or caraway seeds if you like but I absolutely loved this bread without any adornment, just hot from the oven spread with a little bit of butter and dipped into some warm soup. The dough was much stickier than I expected and I wasn’t holding out very high hopes for a great outcome when I put the bread into the oven but I was pleasantly surprised. The bread had a rustic appearance though far from rustic flavors. The crust was crunchy and flavorful, almost like the delicious crust of real French or Italian bread. The bread within was soft, moist, and slightly tangy from the substantial amount of buttermilk in the dough. Despite the lack of yeast, the baking soda reacts with the acid in the buttermilk to create bubbly carbon dioxide which allows the bread to rise quickly. I know I talked about fast bread with my Quick Herb Bread recipe. This is a totally different style of bread, but amazingly, it was even quicker to make and is likely a recipe I will turn to year round whenever I want to enjoy fresh bread in under an hour!
Have a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day! Hopefully my little kitchen leprechaun will move on so my I don’t have so many kitchen disasters next month…
4-Ingredient Irish Soda Bread (adapted from The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook)
Yield: one 8-inch round loaf
3 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper (or coat with nonstick spray).
2. Combine the flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl. Add in most of the buttermilk and mix together by hand until the dough is soft but not wet. Add in the remaining buttermilk. If the dough is too sticky, add in more flour, little by little until it becomes more manageable. Knead it lightly.
3. Shape the loaf into an 8-inch circle and place onto the prepared baking sheet. Cut an X shape on the top of the loaf with a sharp knife.
4. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the crust is a dark golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Let cool slightly before slicing. Best served warm.
More bread recipes from The Dinner Pages: