Friday, March 22, 2013

Irish Raisin Soda Bread

YOU GUYS!  I'm sorry I've abandoned this blog!  I had no intentions of doing so, but I've been extremely busy doing this whole baking thing professionally!  I've been working at an awesome French bakery and learning lots of fancy bread baking skills that I will someday be able to share with you, when I have time to breathe a little bit.  Baking all day is tons of fun, but also tons of hard work!

In the mean time, here's a recipe that comes a few days late for its usual holiday, but so what?  I'm more Irish than anything else in my European mutt gene pool (I think) but I missed out on the drinking genes, so the current manifestation of St. Paddy's Day isn't exactly up my alley.  I mean, I don't need a special holiday to wear green. 

Instead I like to celebrate this time of year with the great Irish tradition of eating lots of carbs.  Not potatoes, soda bread!  This was the one item of extra-curricular baking I was able to squeeze in since I started work, and after I brought it in to share a few weeks ago, I was asked to come in early on St. Paddy's Day weekend to make some to sell in the shop!  Now some of you might hear soda bread and think, "meh, too-dry hard biscuity bread, no thanks."  This recipe, from The Joy of Baking, is not that kind of soda bread.  Sweet, hearty and moist, it's perfect toasted with some honey butter and a cup of tea!  (You can put Baileys in the tea if you need to feel more authentic.)

1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) whole wheat flour (you can also use all white flour, but trust me, the whole wheat gives it so much more flavor!)
3 tablespoons (40 grams) granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons (42 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
3/4 cup (100 grams) golden raisins (I just think they're tastier than dark raisins.)
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) buttermilk, plus more for brushing on the loaf

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) and place the rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Cut the cold butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture, with a pastry blender or two knives, until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs (you can also pulse it together in a food processor.] Stir in the raisins. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add most of the buttermilk. Using yours hands, or a wooden spoon, mix (adding more buttermilk if necessary) until you have a soft, moist dough. I actually went a little too moist in the photo here - still tasted good but you don't need it that sticky as it will be tough to form the loaf.

Transfer to a floured surface (sometimes you need quite a bit of flour to stop your hands from getting sticky) and gently knead the dough into a 7 inch round.  Since, unlike yeast bread, soda bread doesn't form a skin, there's no real trick to this except to use a light hand and make sure it doesn't get too sticky.  As long as it looks round-ish it will bake up fine.  Place the round on your prepared baking sheet and then, using a pastry/basting brush, brush the whole surface of the loaf with buttermilk (this isn't shown in the picture but will make your loaf brown nicely in the oven!)  With a sharp knife, cut a 1/4 inch deep equal-armed cross on the top of the bread.

Bake for about 40 - 50 minutes or until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. 

I strongly suggest  the toothpick test with this bread because it's quite moist in the center and tapping the bottom doesn't always give you an accurate indication of when it's done.  For the same reason, I recommend letting it fully cool before cutting it, but I rarely manage to accomplish this.

I also missed blogging for the Spring Equinox.  While my usual preparation for spring is dyed hard boiled eggs and challah - ALL THE EGGS! - I'm going to see if I can whip up something new and springy to share in the next couple weeks.  Or, like a month.  Or so.  I can't make any specific promises, but I will return!


1 comment:

  1. Kitt aka Hippy Druid ChicMarch 23, 2013 at 6:49 AM

    :D We're all so proud and happy that you are working in a bakery! Next stop, Hello Sweetie opening ;)