I remember St. Patrick’s Day as being a time for parades and wearing green underwear. Okay, green anything but you got pinched if you didn’t have green on so we always said our underwear was green. Growing up I don’t remember eating anything special for the day even though my paternal side of the family has an Irish heritage.
I can’t remember the first time I ever ate Irish Soda Bread but I have always liked it. We traveled around Ireland a few years ago and stayed at Bed and Breakfasts for the entire trip. I think we had Irish Soda Bread at most of them and they were all similar but slightly different as each cook puts their own twist on it. And the people were fantastic.
In the end St. Patrick’s Day is always when I remember to get my recipe out and make some of this delicious, quick and easy bread. I found this recipe on a web site and it’s attributed to Bon Appétit. I’m going to give you step-by-step illustrated instructions for the new bakers that want to try this. Don’t let the number of pictures put you off. Once you get through this recipe the first time you’ll be making it all the time.
The trick to making this bread is gentle kneading and quickly getting it into the oven since the baking soda is what makes it raise and the heat of the oven gives it the best loaf.
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Prepare a baking sheet by lightly greasing, using a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
Place butter in heavy small saucepan over medium heat until melted and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Swirl the pan around or stir so the butter doesn’t settle to the bottom of the pan and burn. Remove from heat.
Stir flour, oats, sugar, rosemary, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper in large bowl to blend. Make a well in the center and set aside.
Pour buttermilk and browned butter over flour mixture.
Using a spatula stir until flour mixture is moistened.
Move the flour mixture from the outside of the bowl into the wet ingredients in the middle.
When the mixture starts to combine enough that there isn’t liquid pooling in the bowl, use your hands to gather the ingredients loosely together in the bowl.
You don’t want to beat this dough or mix it around too much. Work quickly and get it to just start holding together. Overworking will make a tough, heavy bread.
Turn dough out onto floured work surface.
Loosely gather the mixture together on the work surface.
Work quickly to gather the dough together.
Shape the dough into a loose ball. Knead gently until dough comes together, about 7 turns.
You’ll get the most tender soda bread by kneading the dough gently and briefly, just until it comes together, so the gluten is minimally developed.
Use your fingers or a pastry scraper and divide the dough in half.
Shape each half into ball; flatten each into 6-inch round.
Place rounds on prepared baking sheet, spacing 5 inches apart. Using a sharp knife, cut 1/2-inch-deep X in top of each dough round.
Brush tops with beaten egg white. Sprinkle lightly with ground black pepper.
Bake breads until deep golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool breads on rack at least 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Rosemary and black pepper make this bread anything but typical. Wedges are delicious with plenty of butter and your favorite preserves.
Yield: Makes 2 loaves