Traditional Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda BreadI think Irish Soda Bread is one of those things that people always think is really complicated, when really, it couldn’t be simpler.  I make soda bread year round because it is just so darn good, but given the impending Irish holiday-a heritage that my husband and I both share-I thought posting it now was apropos.

I know this sounds a little crazy, but I like making things like this bread because it makes me feel like I have stepped back in time.  Everything about the way it looks, smells, and even the way it feels in your hands when you break it apart calls up images of green fields, rock walls, a heavy knitted sweater or two, and cloudy skies.  You get a feeling that you are doing something, that at the root of it, is worthwhile.  Meaningful.  Rustic.  Do  you ever feel that way when you get your hands dirty?  Wether it is digging in the garden or mixing a hearty bread with your fingers, you just feel like you have survival skills.  Like you know you would make it in a post apocalyptic world.  Assuming you survived the zombies, of course…

The basics of this bread, traditionally, consist of whole grain flour, baking soda, some sort of acid to activate the soda and make the bread rise, and water.   It was plain and eaten with meals or on its own as a quick lunch.  Different regions of Ireland have different variations on shape, cooking, and flavorings, but there are a few things that seem universal.  Most include some sort of dried fruit, such as raisins or currants, and often have the shape of a cross carved in the top of the loaf to ward off the devil.  Who am I to break tradition??

Irish Soda BreadIrish Soda BreadI really have nothing more to say about this fantastic recipe other than it is just fabulous.  I have made a LOT of Irish Soda Breads in the last few years and all of them are good.  I may even share a different one some other day.  But as for a great, straight up, fairly traditional and classic recipe-this is it!  I actually tossed out and deleted several of my other versions because they just don’t compare.  And now I am one step closer to surviving the end of the world.
Irish Soda BreadIrish Soda BreadIrish Soda BreadOne Year Ago: Smokey Smoothie & Quick Peanut Noodles
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Irish Soda Bread
Recipe inspired by numerous places.
This bread is not sweet by any means.  It is rustic and thick and heavy and lovely.  It seems to have the best flavor and texture the day it is made, but toasted on day two is wonderful as well.  Serve this with plenty of cold, salty butter.

3 c flour, plus more as needed
2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
4 T (1/2 stick) cold butter, cut into pieces
1 c wheat bran
1/4 c caraway seeds
1 c raisins
1 2/3 c buttermilk or 1 1/3 c whole milk + 1/3 c apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350.  If you are using whole milk and vinegar in place of the buttermilk, combine them now and set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the first four ingredients together until combined.  Add the butter and pulse until mixture resembled course crumbs.  Alternatively, cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry blender, to knives, or by rubbing the butter between your fingers.  Dump into a large bowl and add the caraway, raisins, and bran.  Mix gently to combine.  Pour in the buttermilk and stir with a large fork until the mixture starts to come together and is just combined.  Dough will be very sticky.  Flour your hands and gently pat the dough into an 8 inch domed round on a large baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a Silpat.  Score the top of the round with a large cross and sprinkle with a dusting of flour if desired.  Bake for 1 hour, or until golden brown and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool on a wire rack.  Slice, or break into four chunks along the grooves and then slice.  Serve with lotsa buttah!