Irish Soda Bread

Around St. Patrick’s Day every year, my wife Tina, being the fine Irish Lady that she is, gets a hankering for some good old fashioned Irish Soda Bread.  I have made this a number of times over the year with good results, but this year I put some additional research into it.

My desire was for a soda bread with dried fruit (raisins) and caraway seeds.  I trolled the Internet and found a lot of recipes, and they varied a lot.  I combined the best of what I thought were good ideas and made the soda bread you see in the video below.  Tips and ingredients are included below the video.

One of the most frustrating things was the wide range of times that people would give for how long to cook a loaf.  They ranged from 40 to 75 minutes.  In the end I decided to use an internal temperature approach.  I found a site that suggested an internal temperature on a quick read thermometer of 180 degrees.  Mine ended up being 200 when I took it out, and that worked out just fine.  It was in the oven for just over 1 hour at 350.

Irish Soda bread with thermometer inserted.
I used the internal temperature method to determine when to remove this bread from the oven.

I really like the approach of using a cast iron skillet coated with butter and then warmed in the oven as the oven preheated.  This allowed for a quick start on getting the bread cooking, and meant that the oven wasn’t having to heat the skillet.  This recipe makes a large loaf, so getting that heat in right off the bat was a good idea.

I have seen some recipes that make soda bread in a Dutch oven, preheated and with the lid on.  This is supposed to keep the steam in, and that would give a crispy crust like you get with French bread.  I would like to try that some time, but I don’t have a Dutch oven.  If you try it, let me know in the comments how it turns out.

The list of ingredients I used is from Epicurious, but the way that I worked it up is different.

Ingredients and Directions:

Coat inside of cast iron skillet with butter (this not the same butter listed as an ingredient below), then put into oven and preheat oven to 350.  Make sure you pull the skillet out after oven has hit temperature so you don’t overheat skillet and burn butter.

Combine in a large bowl and thoroughly mix together:

  • 5 cups unbleached powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Add

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
    Mix this into the other ingredients using your hand to crumple the butter so it mixes into tiny pieces within the dry ingredients.

Then add

  • 2 1/2 cups raisins
  • 3 tablespoons caraway seeds

Whisk together until thoroughly mixed

  • 2 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 large egg

Pour wet mixture into dry ingredients, and stir together with wooden spoon or spatula just until the ingredients are all mixed together and all flour is moist.  Do not over mix.

Take your preheated skillet from the oven if you haven’t already, and pour ingredients into skillet being careful not to burn yourself on the hot skillet.  Spread so that the bottom of the skillet is covered, but with a mound toward the center that is higher than the ingredients near the side of the pan.  Smooth using your spoon or skillet, but maintain the mounded nature of the loaf.  Using a sharp knife, cut an X into the top of the loaf.

Put into oven and cook to an internal temperature of at least 180 degrees.  Mine took about an hour.  If you don’t have a thermometer, use whatever method you would use to tell if a cake is done (insert toothpick and if it comes out clean).

 

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