In Food Section World, this long-evolved Irish Soda Bread recipe would be published before St. Patrick’s Day. But in Brick World, I bake a loaf on St. Paddy’s, relying on collected recipes and sometimes a new one that pops up. Brick could schedule the recipe for March 16, 2013, but why wait?
Every newspaper every year notes that the original of this quick bread (referring to baking soda and/or powder, not yeast) was unsweetened, essentially a round-loaf whole-wheat version of hardtack. These articles then decry the Americanized eggy sugary raisiny white-flour version. The authors all conclude with their semiauthentic, palateable compromises.
The following is my amalgamation of some of the compromises. [March 2013 update: Below I’ve made the sugar 1–2 Tablespoons instead of just 1. The smaller is more savory, but 2 Tablespoons brings out the flavors; this still is far below the sweetener called for in many recipes.]
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1 Tablespoon caraway seeds
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 3 cups whole wheat flour (12 oz.)
- 1 cup white flour (4.25 oz.)
- 1–2 Tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 cup milk
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Plump raisins and caraway by soaking together a few minutes in 1/8 cup liquid (maybe 1 Tablespoon whiskey and 1 Tablespoon water). Combine 1 1/2 cups milk with lemon juice, let sit a few minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together all of the dry ingredients. Stir in the raisins and seeds.
Stir in the soured milk, mixing well for about 2 minutes with sturdy spoon or a hand. Add, 1 Tablespoon at a time, the remaining milk — until all the flour is moistened and sticky. You may not need all that half cup milk, depending on kitchen humidity.
Grease a cookie sheet or pizza pan OR cut a section of parchment paper to fit. Lightly dust with flour. Form the dough into a tight ball, place on the pan parchment sheet and flatten the loaf slightly, to about 3 inches thick. With a sharp knife, cut a cross or other basic pattern, about 1/2 inch deep.
Bake for 35–40 minutes, until the outside is medium-to-dark brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Serve immediately. The loaf, wrapped, will keep a few days. Toasts nicely. Can serve just with butter (my choice), jam or the traditional slices of cheddar and apples.