Are you afraid of baking homemade bread? I know, it's really intimidating. I spent a long, frustrating time being a pretty good cook and baker who was completely inept when it came to bread, especially yeast breads. I've finally mastered that art (it just takes time and practice, friends!!), but I'm still grateful for breads like these that are pretty much foolproof.
This Irish soda bread is sooooo comforting and rustic and hearty. I've used both all-purpose and whole wheat flour, and when I'm serving it with onion soup (as I always am and was last night), I really prefer the whole wheat flour. All-purpose flour leaves it a bit too sweet and light -- don't get me wrong, it's delicious! But it just doesn't stand up to this thick, creamy soup the way a whole wheat loaf does. I've made some modifications to counter the heaviness of whole wheat flour, but if you generally find whole wheat bread too heavy or bitter, (I know some brands leave more of an aftertaste than others), I recommend a combination of the two flours.
Irish Soda Bread
adapted from The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook
- 4 cups flour, whole wheat preferred, see text above
- 2 t. baking soda
- 1½ t. cream of tartar
- 2 t. salt
- 3 T. sugar
- 4 T. (½ stick) unsalted butter
- 1 egg, beaten well
- 1½ cups buttermilk or whey (or milk + white vinegar, see step 2), plus 2 more tablespoons if using whole wheat flour
- Preheat oven to 425° F. Grease and flour a 9-inch pan. (I will never tell you to flour a pan unless it really needs it. Flour this pan!!)
- If you don't have buttermilk or whey, stir together milk and about 2 t. (I don't measure) of white vinegar. Let stand while you complete the next few steps.
- In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and sugar. Cut butter into chunks, then rub in with your fingers until completely incorporated. Mixture will still be very floury and dry.
- Using a rubber spatula, stir in the egg and buttermilk/whey/milk-and-vinegar mixture until dough begins to form. Turn out onto a lightly floured counter and knead until dough just comes together. If dough is too sticky, work in a bit more flour as you knead. Overworking the dough makes for tough bread! Don't handle it more than you have to.
- Form into a round and place into prepared pan. Score an X about ½ inch deep into the top of the dough.
- Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven, then reduce heat to 350° F and bake 40 minutes more.
- Cool on a wire rack, then slice and butter thick wedges to serve with your favorite soup or stew.