I was kept from my blogging duties because of a business excursion to New York. While I had originally planned to post a delicious find from my trip, I became terrified of all-things-food, due to a nasty bout of food poisoning the night before my return (which was further delayed by a snowstorm). Instead of fond memories of sushi in the East Village and soup in the Park, the entire trip is clouded by one dreadful night of heaving between episodes of When Animals Attack, my face pressed to the hotel room’s bathroom floor. Lesson learned: poached eggs on the island of Manhattan are to be avoided.
With poorly days behind me, I turn this week’s focus to upcoming festivities of the Irish-persuasion. I’m not a huge celebrator of St. Patrick’s Day, as it generally is the first occasion for novice drinkers to shed their Bud-Lite training wheels and spend the morning vomiting Irish car bombs in the street. But as a resident of a city that goes to the lengths of dying its river green, I am compelled to pay a morsel of tribute. Plus the recipe is simple and delicious.
True, traditional Irish Soda Bread limits ingredients to flour, baking soda, buttermilk and salt. The 19th century innovation of adding baking soda to bread had two major advantages: it did not require kneading—the less you mess with it, the better the texture—and it did not require an oven. You could pour it into your cast-iron pot and set it directly on the coals before going out to lie between sheep and watch leprechauns jump from the Cliffs of Mohr.
This version includes the luxuries of butter, egg, raisins and caraway seeds, which were added by bastardly immigrants upon arriving to America, but make the bread taste just plain delicious. If you’ve never made bread before, this is a good starting point as it involves mixing a few things and tossing them in the oven.
Irish-American Soda Bread
- 5 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes, room temperature
- 2 1/2 cups raisins
- 2 tablespoons caraway seeds
- 2 1/2 cups milk (more % fat=more % delicious)
- 3 tbs cider vinegar (this is in lieu of having buttermilk on hand, which normal people never do)
- 1 large egg
Set the oven to 350ºF
Butter a 10-12 inch skillet (if you have it, cast iron improves the aesthetic) or a deep, round cake pan. Whisk first five ingredients, then rub in the butter (it won’t be dough at this point, just crumbly.) Stir in raisins and caraway seeds. Separate from the flour mix, whisk milk, vinegar, and egg, then incorporate into dough.
Pour dough into skillet, then make a large x over the top with a floured knife (this will help the interior to cook evenly). Bake 1hr15 to 90 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Cool a few minutes, use a knife to loosen the sides, and transfer to a cooling rack.
Enjoy with butter and wash down with whiskey.