A day known for lots of green, leprechauns, shamrocks, and, well, drinking, if that’s your thing. But historically, this is a religious day used to honor the feast of St. Patrick and to celebrate Irish culture, of course!
One of the things I loved about going to high school in Brooklyn is that my friends came from so many different backgrounds, countries, religions, and cultures, which exposed me to loads of new things, including this soda bread. The first time I ever tried or even heard of it was when a good friend of mine brought some into school for all of us to try and it was something we all began looking forward to each year!
What I’ve learned is that Irish soda bread is the type of food born out of necessity during tough times when supplies were low and hunger was high. With only a few basic, cheap ingredients and the fact that it is a no fuss, quick bread, it became a staple on many tables in Ireland.
I loved how fast it all came together and in just a little over an hour it was all done and ready to eat. Baking soda, instead of yeast, acts as the leavening agent, and it is activated by the sour buttermilk, giving the bread a soft, fluffy inside. Traditionally it is also made using raisins or currants, but while shopping at Trader Joe’s the other day, I couldn’t find currants, but did find an delicious “Golden Berry Blend” of cherries, blueberries, cranberries, and golden raisins that provided some bright flavors, in addition to the orange zest, and dotted the bread with beautiful, festive colors.
This type of bread has a very short shelf life, so indulge while you can and have a safe and happy St. Paddy’s Day!
Irish Soda Bread
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten’s Irish Soda Bread
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold, unsalted butter cut into cubes
- 1 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
- 1 cup dried currants (I used a combination of dried cherries, blueberries, cranberries, and golden raisins)
- Preheat the oven to 375°F and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Combine 4 cups of flour, 4 tablespoons of sugar, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
- Once thoroughly combined, add the 4 tablespoons of cold butter and mix on low until fully incorporated.
- In a measuring cup, beat the 1 3/4 cup of buttermilk, 1 egg, and 1 teaspoon of grated orange zest and slowly added to the flour and butter mixture.
- Toss the dried fruit in flour to prevent it from sinking while baking and mix into the dough. The dough will be very sticky and wet.
- Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and gently knead into a round loaf.
- Place the loaf onto the prepared baking sheet, and with a serrated knife, cut an X into the top.
- Bake for about 55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the bread sounds hollow when you tap it.
- Cool completely before serving ♧