March 16, 2011

Emerald Isle Fare

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Margaret's Morsels | Irish Soda Bread

Several years ago, I decided to honor my Irish heritage by cooking corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day.  My family still talks about this meal.  Unfortunately, their comments aren't positive.  My husband didn't like the cooked cabbage or carrots.  My son thought the cabbage made the house smell bad and, like his father, didn't like the cooked cabbage or carrots.  This year, I decided to make something a little sweeter for St. Patrick's Day:  a loaf of Irish Soda Bread.


Traditional Irish Soda Bread consists of four ingredients:  flour, soda, buttermilk and salt.  American versions of the recipe usually contain additional ingredients such as butter, eggs, sugar and sometimes currants, raisins or caraway seeds.  These additions make a more cake-like bread.


Irish Soda Bread is a quick bread which isn't the same thing as batter bread.  Quick breads don't require kneading or rising because they're leavened with something other than yeast.  Batter breads don't require kneading either, but they use yeast as the leavening agent.


There are two important rules to remember when you make quick bread. One, have all the ingredients at room temperature.  This makes it easier to combine the ingredients which is important for the second rule.  Two, don't overmix the dough.  Overmixing produces a tough loaf of bread.


The bread starts by mixing the dry ingredients together.  This recipe uses baking powder and baking soda as the leavening agents.  Most baking powder is double acting which means it releases gas when it's mixed with a liquid and again when exposed to heat.  On the other hand, baking soda must be mixed with an acid in order to work as a leavener.


Once the dry ingredients are mixed together, the margarine is cut into the mixture with a pastry blender.  Normally, when you cut butter or margarine into dry ingredients, the mixture turns into coarse crumbs.  Not so with this recipe because you're only adding 1/2 cup margarine to 4 cups of flour. Blend the margarine into the dry ingredients until there aren't any clumps of margarine remaining.


Margaret's Morsels | Irish Soda Bread
The dry ingredients after the margarine has been cut in.

The liquid ingredients are added next.  Remember how I said baking soda needs an acid to make it work?  In this recipe, the acid is provided by buttermilk.  Not only does the buttermilk act as the acid, it also produces a bread that is extremely tender.  If you don't have buttermilk, you can make your own sour milk.  To make 1 cup sour milk, put 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar in a measuring cup.  Add enough milk to make 1 cup.  Thoroughly stir the mixture and let it sit for 5 minutes; proceed as directed.

Once you add the liquids, use a wooden spoon or spatula to combine the ingredients.  Remember rule number two and don't overmix the dough.  It won't be firm enough to shape into a ball yet and will look something like this:   


Margaret's Morsels | Irish Soda Bread


Normally, you don't knead quick bread.  This recipe is an exception because you need to shape the dough into a round.  Out of all the bread doughs I've worked with, this has been the easiest to knead.  Put the dough on a lightly floured surface.  Sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough and knead it three or four times. This is all it takes for the dough to stick together.   Shape the dough into a round and transfer to a greased baking sheet.

Margaret's Morsels | Irish Soda Bread
The dough after it's been kneaded and shaped.

Traditionally, Irish Soda Bread has a cross or an "X" on top of the dough. The cross signified blessing the bread whereas an "X" allowed the devil out of the bread.  There is actually a very good reason for scoring the bread.  Cutting 1/2-inch into the bread before it's baked allows heat to penetrate into the thickest part of the bread.

Margaret's Morsels | Irish Soda Bread

You can bake the bread as is or add a glaze to the top.  A glaze gives the bread a glossy look when it's baked.  Most glazes use either egg yolks or egg whites mixed with milk or water.  This recipes uses melted margarine and buttermilk.  The easiest way to apply the glaze is to brush it on with a pastry brush.  I apply the glaze before baking the bread and at 15 minute intervals while the bread is baking.  The finished loaf is prettier when it's glazed.

When the bread is done, let it sit on the baking sheet 10 minutes and then transfer the loaf to a wire rack to cool completely.  The bread can be served warm, but don't cut it while it's still hot.  If you do, the pieces will crumble.

If you're looking for something to serve for St. Patrick's Day, give Irish Soda Bread a try.  It's quick, easy to prepare and, according to my husband and son, much better than corned beef and cabbage.


Irish Soda Bread
20 Servings

4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup margarine, softened
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/4 cup margarine, melted
1/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 375°.  Whisk the first 5 ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.  Blend in the softened margarine using a pastry cutter until no clumps of margarine are visible.  Stir in the buttermilk and egg.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough and knead three or four times.  Form the dough into a round and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet.   Using a sharp knife, cut an "X" 1/2-inch deep into the top of the dough.

In a small bowl, combine the melted margarine and buttermilk.  Brush the bread with the mixture.  Bake at 375° for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Brush the loaf with the margarine mixture at 15 minute intervals while the bread is baking, if desired.

When the bread is done, let the bread sit on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes.  Transfer the loaf to a wire rack to cool completely.

© Margaret's Morsels

22 comments:

  1. Isn't that frustrating when the family does not appreciate the cultural importance of the "stinky" food? I one time made lamb shank. I have no idea how it tasted because everyone made such a fuss about the smell that it had to be thrown away before we got to eat any of it. This soada bread looks good. Will have to give it a try!

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  2. Yes, it is frustrating! I hope you'll enjoy the bread. The texture is cake-like, but with just a hint of sweetness.

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  3. I have always wanted to try to make Irish soda bread! I am excited to try this for St. Patrick's Day this year! Thanks for sharing!

    -Katherine
    kingsbakery.blogspot.com

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    1. You're welcome, Katherine! The bread is sweet, but not too sweet. It's also a very easy dough to work with. I hope you like the bread. Happy (early) St. Patrick's Day!

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    2. Irish soda bread is something I've never made (although I have eaten it). I'd eat a slice alongside your corned beef and cabbage b/c I don't mind stinky food! Thank you for linking with See Ya in the Gumbo this week. And thank you for all great tips in this post too.

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    3. You're welcome, Michelle! I love cooked cabbage, but no one else in my family will eat it. At least I know two restaurants that have it on the menu:) Thanks for hosting the party and for the opportunity to share the recipe!

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    4. Hi, Margaret. I wanted to let you know that my son picked your Irish Soda Bread to feature at this week's potluck! He loves bread.

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    5. Thank you, Michelle!!!! I'm glad your son liked the recipe and chose it to be featured this week. That's just the kind of good news I needed today! Thanks for hosting the party and for the opportunity to share the recipe!

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  4. Love Irish Soda Bread! It is quintessential St Pat's Day Fare! I will be sharing it on http://foodisloverecipes.com Front page for our St Pat's Day weekend!

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    1. Thanks, Laurie! This version is sweet, but not too sweet. Thanks for sharing it on your page and for the opportunity to share the recipe!

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  5. I love Irish Soda Bread!
    Thanks for sharing this at Cooking and Crafting with J & J.

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    1. You're welcome! I hope you'll like this version. Thanks for hosting the party.

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  6. Oh my this looks pretty good! I am a bread-atarian meaning I live off of bread, okay not really but I could! I am going to have to add this to my bread rotation! Thank you for linking up with us at the Tips and Tricks Link Party!

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    1. Thanks, Gabby! I know what you mean about wanting to live off of bread. What's better than a fresh from the oven piece of bread with butter??? Thanks for hosting the party.

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  7. I have a cousin who makes this...or something similar...and it's so delicious! :)

    Thanks for joining Cooking and Crafting with J & J!

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    1. Thanks, Jess! It's a nice change of pace from other sweet things. It's sweet, but not too sweet! Thanks for hosting the party. Have a good week.

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  8. Irish soda bread looks delicious, you made it perfectly, thanks for sharing with Hearth and soul blog hop, pinning and tweeting.

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    1. Thanks, Swathi! Thanks for hosting, pinning and tweeting! Have a good week.

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  9. That looks delicious!! Definitely going to pin this to try. Usually the recipes are so hard to follow, and yours seems like something I could do! :) Thank you for sharing it at the #HomeMattersParty

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    1. Thanks, Jamie! I hope you have good luck with the recipe. The dough is very easy to work with. Thanks for hosting the party! Have a good week.

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  10. Your Irish Soda Bread looks awesome! Thanks so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday and have a fantastic day!
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

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    1. Thanks, Miz Helen! I hope you have a great day and week too!

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