While the raisin bedecked white soda bread may be more common here in the US, that's not what comes to mind when I think of Irish bread. The hearty brown stuff is the bread I fancy. It captured my attention on my first trip to Ireland, back in 1977, and I've never looked back. My family and I arrived in Ireland more than a little green around the gills from the over-night flight on that day long ago. Sensing our collective malaise, our gracious hostess at the B&B quickly healed all ills by serving us gallons of dark, hot tea and the most luscious brown bread imaginable. I'm convinced that bread had magical properties and it has been my favorite Irish delicacy - no, that's not an oxymoron - ever since. I'm happy to present my version of it here for you today.
Brown Soda Bread:
- 2 cups of whole wheat flour
- 3/4 cup wheat germ
- 1 and 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 stick of cold, unsalted, butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 2 cups of buttermilk
- 1 tsp. pure honey
In a large bowl, combine the whole wheat flour, wheat germ, white flour, salt, sugar, cream of tartar and baking soda. Mix well with a wire whisk until well combined. Add the butter and using your hands, or a pastry cutter, blend until the mixture forms a coarse meal. (I like to use my hands and rub the butter and flour together between them until the mealy texture is achieved.) Make a well in the center of the bowl and add the buttermilk and honey. Stir with a wooden spoon until all of the buttermilk has been incorporated and a stiff dough begins to form.
Turn the mixture out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently until smooth, roughly 2 to 3 minutes or so, adding a bit more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking. Transfer the dough to a buttered, 9 inch, cake pan, pressing down and flattening the dough slightly to fill the pan. Using a sharp knife, cut a large X across the top of the dough. (As seen below.) Bake in the middle of a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes or until the loaf has browned and middle of the X no longer looks wet. The fully baked loaf will sound hollow when the bottom is tapped. (Mine baked for @ 42 minutes.) Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and continue cooling the loaf on a wire rack.
Slice and serve immediately, slathered with good, fresh butter. As written this recipe will yield one, 9 inch round loaf ... and it won't last long. I just dare you to keep your hands off it!
So, how did you celebrate St. Paddy's Day? Curious Diva wants to know.
On Edit: Careful viewers will note that this bread is not in a cake pan ... my cake pans seem to have disappeared. Curious that. I threw it into a glass pie dish and it baked off just fine. :)