15 March 2014

Here's another great recipe that is good to have for St. Patrick's Day.  I am not much of a baker, and haven't mastered homemade bread yet, but last year I decided to try soda bread on St. Patrick's Day.  We were having friends over for a feast so I thought it was the perfect time to try it.  I wanted to do a traditional soda bread recipe, not one that added a bunch of stuff like raisins and whatnot.  I got a great sounding recipe in my email from Fine Cooking and it seemed perfect.  Four ingredients and no kneading?  That sounded like a bread recipe I could handle.  

Irish Soda Bread

1 lb. (3½ cups) all-purpose flour; more as needed
¾ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp dried herbs (optional)
1½ to 1¾ cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 400°. 

Place all of the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in 1½ cups of the buttermilk. Stir the buttermilk into the dry ingredients. If necessary, add more buttermilk 1 tbsp at a time until the dough just barely comes together. The dough should be soft; don’t overwork it.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and pat into a round about 6¾” in diameter and 1½” high in the center.  Invert the round so the floured side is on top. With a thin, sharp knife, score a cross on the dough about ¼” deep and extending fully from one side to the other.  

Transfer the dough to a stoneware baking sheet and bake for 35-45 minutes or until the bread is browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Cool to room temperature on a rack, about 2 hours, before slicing and serving.

Makes 4 servings.

I was so amazed at how well this bread turned out the first time I made it.  It was gorgeous!  I was very shocked that I could make such beautiful bread with so little effort.  It was a huge hit with our friends and I have since made it several times.  I made five or six loaves of it for our church's bake sale last fall and they sold for $6 each.

While this bread is awesome with just the four basic ingredients, I will sometimes add some dried herbs to it to change it up a little bit.  So far my favorite add-ins have been: Mural of Flavor, dried dill, Toasted Onion, Tuscan Sunset, and lemon pepper.  The possibilities are endless.

I only made two slight changes to the original recipe.  It called for half as much salt but some reviewers said it needed more.  I think it's perfect with the 1 tsp.  If you are adding extra seasonings, make sure they are salt-free, or reduce the amount of plain salt you use.

I also had to adjust the cooking temperature a bit.  The original called for baking it at 450 for 15 minutes, then reducing to 400.  But I had problems with that; the crust was hard and crunchy on the outside, but the inside was a little underdone.  So I have much better results baking it at 400 the entire time.  I still get a nice crunchy outside, but this way the inside is cooked through too.

This recipe is so handy to know.  It doesn't require a lot of pre-planning or prep time.  It's easy peasy and a total crowd pleaser.  I'm making it again tomorrow for this year's St. Patty's Day feast!

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