I'm eating a slice of Irish soda bread as I type this blog post. It's dense, buttery, tender and warm with pops of raisin in every bite. Last night I got home from work around 9:15 and decided to go the kitchen instead of going to bed. Maybe it was the "Make Soda Breads" command on my ever-looming list of things to do that got me. Maybe it was a craving. Either way, I just knew that last night was the night to make bread. And in my family—on the Irish side that is--soda bread is no joke.
The recipe that I used is passed down to me from my aunt. You may remember hearing about her around Thanksgiving time. Yes, she is the baker in the family. Her recipe uses lots of raisins and buttermilk, and gets its insanely delicious upper crust from a post-baking brush of melted butter. Needless to say, it's a St. Patrick’s Day staple in our family.
So when I decided to write about Irish soda bread for today's post, I thought it would be easy to find a recipe similar to ours somewhere in the blog world. You see, I know how good this recipe is. So I wanted to share something like it with you, just from the mouth of a fellow blogger. It was a lot harder than I thought! But eventually, after days of Pinning and TasteSpotting and Googling galore, I was able to find a recipe that looked like it came out of my aunt's kitchen.
I think I just realized why I felt such a strong need to bake last night...
Anyhow, the luck o' the Irish brought me to a wonderful blog called Strudel and Streusel. The blog is run by Morgan, A.K.A Strudel and Tiffany, A.K.A Streusel, two friends who met at a bread baking class in Denver and "instantly became baking friends." Today, one lives in Seattle and the other remains in Denver, and the blog is their way of staying in touch and sharing their baking bites with the world.
The Irish soda bread recipe comes from Strudel, who in the past recalled the bread as being dry and dull. But her mind was changed when she tasted a sample at a bakery one day and realized that, with a few little tweaks and tricks, Irish soda bread could be delicious.
Strudel's recipe is adapted from one by Ina Garten, and utilizes what I consider to be soda bread staples: raisins, buttermilk, baking soda and plenty of butter. Strudel adds caraway seeds for that earthy rye flavor and lemon zest which mirrors the brightness and tang of the buttermilk. She also sprinkles raw sugar over the top to give the crust a sweet crunch. I told you the upper crust was the best part!
The great thing about Irish soda bread is that it's barely a bread at all. All you really have to do in order to make it is mix everything together, form it into a ball (in my family we use loaf pans) and bake it. No yeast, no proofing or rising time, just simple, easy, delicious bread. It's best served hot or toasted with plenty of good, salted Irish butter and jam if you prefer things even sweeter.
There's an old Irish blessing that I decided to tweak a bit, just for this tasty occasion.
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May you hold a loaf of Irish soda bread in the palm of your hand.
Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone!