Thursday, March 14, 2013

Light Wheat Irish Soda Bread

If there's one thing I've learned about Irish Soda Bread over the years, it's that everyone has an opinion about how they want it to taste. Seeds, no seeds. Raisins, no raisins. I'm easy . . . I'll eat it in any form, especially if someone bakes it for me. That said, I do have a pretty strong feeling regarding one specific issue: Irish Soda Bread is a quick bread, not a yeast bread. Why? It's called Soda Bread for a reason! It's chemically leavened ~ that is, with baking soda and baking powder. Hence, no yeast needed. The yeast can chill on the shelf until it's needed for Easter Babka (another holiday bread that seems to have as many opinions about its proper production as there are bakers who craft it).

In my experience, most of the soda breads you find in the grocery store are yeast breads. Why? Probably because they keep longer and are easier to produce in volume. An Irish Soda Bread is essentially a giant scone, and like all scones, it's at its best on the day it's made. Arguably, the hour it's made, when it's still harboring some warmth in its tender heart.

I've made mine here with a little wheat flour for the texture and the sweetness. Sometimes I throw in a handful of oats. Sometimes a half-cup of raisins, Craisins, or even chopped toasted walnuts. (Hey, I'm not Irish, I can make the leap with impunity.)

Usually I make a couple of loaves, with and without raisins, so everyone is happy. And because leftovers are awesome the next morning, lightly toasted with butter.

Go ahead and try this recipe; I think you'll like it. Make a couple of loaves, one with and one without--seeds or raisins--but please, no yeast.

Light Wheat Irish Soda Bread

•3 cups all-purpose flour
•1 cup whole wheat flour
•¼ cup light brown sugar
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
•1 teaspoon baking soda
•½ teaspoon salt
•6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
•2 large eggs, lightly beaten
•1 1/2 cups buttermilk, sour milk, or yogurt
•¾ cup raisins (optional)
•1 egg, beaten
•Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and buttermilk. Pour buttermilk mixture over flour mixture, add raisins if using, and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened.
4. Dust with flour and knead three or four turns, just until dough clings together. Divide into two pieces and form each into a round loaf. Place on opposite ends of a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cut a 3-inch cross, about 1/2 –inch deep into the top of each loaf using a sharp paring knife. Brush loaves with beaten egg and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
5. Bake loaves in a 375 degree oven for 35 minutes, or until golden brown and bottoms sound hollow when lightly tapped. Let cool on a rack before serving.


Brittany P. said...

Loved this recipe! Thanks for sharing. I omitted the egg & sugar so I could use it for a savory bread as well. It was great!

Sherri Jo said...

oh yum!

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