Ah, St. Patrick’s Day. Here in the U.S., it seems as though it is a time for eating corned beef and cabbage, drinking too much Guinness, and, following that up with a slice or two of Irish Soda Bread. We’re pretty sure that in Ireland it isn’t the party atmosphere; instead, it’s more of a religious holiday, a time to get together with family and friends — not that the Irish need a holiday for getting together with family and friends, that just happens. And, of course a pint of the black stuff won’t go amiss, either. But let’s get back to the Irish Soda Bread. We aren’t sure this is an authentic Irish recipe; we got it from a co-worker quite a number of years ago and it has become our recipe to beat.
A note: this is best if you bake it in a cast iron pan, but if you don’t have one, it still turns out well on a baking sheet.
Makes 1 large loaf
- 4 cups sifted flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 hefty Tbs shortening
- 1/4 cup caraway seeds
- 1 1/2 cups raisins
- 2 cups buttermilk
Since we knew we were making a couple of loaves this weekend (St. Patrick’s Day, if you forgot already), we made up extra buttermilk on Thursday. That’s one great thing about scratchin’; if you plan, you can easily accommodate for larger amounts. Every other ingredient is pretty standard, but we’ll point out that it does take a bit of caraway seeds — don’t be tempted to omit them — that we were able to pick up for a reasonable price at Penzey’s spices (we get nothing for mentioning them, so if you save money shopping there send half of your savings to us. Thanks!)
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Grease a 9-10 inch cast iron skillet. No cast iron skillet? Consider getting one, as they are amazing to cook with; we recommend getting an old #8 Griswold, rather than anything new. Otherwise sprinkle cornmeal on a baking sheet. Set aside.
Mix together dry ingredients. For this, consider raisins dry, but not shortening. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, raisins, baking soda, salt, caraway seeds, sugar, and baking powder.
Cut in shortening. Use a fork and a knife, or your fingers (preferred) to cut in the shortening. If you use your fingers, don’t worry; they’ll wash. If you’re worried about getting shortening on your hands, maybe you shouldn’t bake.
Add buttermilk. Add the 2 cups buttermilk and stir it in. This is a pretty sticky dough, so just get in there with your hands and deal with it. It’ll be messy, but who cares? It’s not as if you go around with dough on your hands all day.
Bake. Shape the dough into a rough flattened ball and place on the cast iron skillet; it’ll be rough, trust us, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Test for done-ness by up upending the loaf on its side and thumping it in the middle — if it sounds hollow, it’s done.
Cool. Remove to a rack and cool, but before it is completely cool, slice off a bit and slather with butter and enjoy. People who get their hands dirty always get the first piece.
This Irish Soda Bread it quick to put together, it isn’t too sweet, and, with all that buttermilk in there, it is nice and moist. Over the next couple of days, we’ll slice off pieces, run them under the broiler, and just munch away. And if one of us happens to have a Guinness along with, we attribute that to the luck o’ the Irish. Sláinte!