Irish Soda Bread always reminds me of my first date with Shawn. We were friends for years, but it was a Tuesday night when he finally invited me to dinner. He took me to his favorite Irish pub in town. We sat in the teeny bar with wood trim and vintage floral wallpaper and pretended we were far, far away in the UK. The best thing on the menu there is the Guinness stew. It’s always served with freshly baked Irish Soda Bread dotted with dainty little currants. Bits of sweetness from the bread contrast sharply against the earthy warmth of the stew, making the two an inseparable pair and so comforting on a chilly night.
Irish Soda Bread
This bread is a close cousin to scones and so simple to put together. It has a delicate crumbly crust that cracks gently giving way to a warm, spongy interior. The mildly sweet taste makes it even more irresistible. This recipe is very forgiving and guaranteed to turn even the most timid baker into a boss. One time, I realized we didn’t have any sour cream in the fridge, so I tossed yogurt into the mix, instead and the results were just as fabulous. This is Shawn’s favorite recipe and a sure-fire winner.
Some people are cooks, others are bakers. If you’re free-willed in the kitchen and have a good sense of taste, you’re a spectacular cook, but probably a terrible baker, only because you don’t follow instructions well. Well, this Irish Soda Bread will change all that. It is quick, easy and very forgiving.
It proves to be the best companion to any hearty stew, especially on a chilly night. Warm up leftovers the next day for breakfast and enjoy with butter or cream cheese. Make a few extra loaves to give away to deserving ones during the holidays and you’ll surely be hailed as a rockstar baker.
The mad rush of the holidays is here. Irish Soda Bread is absolutely delicious. No fuss, no stress and perfect for entertaining, it’s sure to be a winner with the masses. A dusting of flour on top gives it a spiffy artisanal look and suggests you slaved for hours by the oven. No one has to know you actually had plenty of time to sip your hot cocoa in peace.
A bit about the ingredients…If you don’t have buttermilk, use sour cream and, if you don’t have sour cream, plain yogurt will do just fine as a stand-in. Nigella seeds, also called caraway seeds, are common in Scandinavian and Middle Eastern pastries. They are a ever-present in a Persian mixed vegetable pickle called Litteh and quintessential to true Irish Soda Bread, but if you find their taste unfavorable or have a difficult time finding them, do leave them out. About the currant, they really are little raisins. Don’t be afraid to use sultanas or raisins if you can’t find them.
Shawn’s Irish Soda Bread
Prep: 10 mins
Oven: 400*F, then 350*F
Bake: 15 mins, then 15 mins
3 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tb baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 stick butter
2 Tb nigella seeds
1 cup dried currants
1 cup buttermilk (or sour cream)
1 free-range egg
Wash your hands.
Preheat to 400*F.
Collect flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl and mix well.
Add butter and rub into dry mix til it disappears.
Add nigella seeds and currants.
In another bowl, whisk buttermilk and egg together.
Add to the other bowl and mix gently by hand.
Turn the dough out on a clean, floured work surface and fold it over on itself several times, shaping into a round ball.
Set into a cast iron skillet or buttered cake pan.
Slice a cross over the top and transfer to hot oven.
Bake 15 mins, then reduce heat to 350*F and bake another 15-20 mins.
Cut into generous slices and serve warm with Irish Stew.
This Irish Soda Bread is also delightful in the morning for breakfast with sweet butter and orange marmalade.