March 13, 2015 | Posted by Stephanie Banyas
Did you know that authentic Irish Soda Bread has only four ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk? That’s it. There is no sugar, eggs or butter, no currants or caraway seeds or dill, no cheddar or Gruyere cheese in traditional Irish soda bread (those ingredients are strictly Irish-American additions). For research purposes, I decided to make a loaf of traditional soda bread and after eating (barely) a slice, I was thankful for the Irish American additions. Enough said.
In America, we tend to eat soda bread once a year, on or around St. Patrick’s Day. But why limit it to that? When made properly, it really is a wonderful all-purpose bread with unlimited flavor variations. It’s a quick bread, which means that it is so easy to make that virtually no prior baking experience is required. It comes together in a matter of minutes and the loaf is ready to eat, hot out of the oven, in less than an hour.
My base recipe for soda bread is adapted from America’s Test Kitchen (one of my favorite magazines and websites of all time) and it really is perfect as written. But, never being one to leave well enough alone, and wanting to create something a bit more special for this festive Irish holiday, I was inspired by another one of my favorite things: a yeast-risen semolina, fennel, golden raisin bread created by Amy Scherber, the owner/founder of Amy’s Bread in NYC. I wondered if that sweet, aromatic bread with the satisfying crunch would work well in soda bread form? The answer is yes. Actually, the answer is Hells Yes!
By replacing some of the cake flour and AP flour with semolina flour and adding golden raisins and toasted salted fennel seeds, I have created what I think is one of the finest soda breads I have ever tasted (no need to be humble when something is this yummy!). And the best part is that this bread can really be eaten all year-round.
It is delicious dressed with butter and jam for breakfast, or served with sharp cheddar cheese for an afternoon snack or, of course, served alongside a big platter of corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day. May the luck of the Irish and this soda bread recipe be with you always!
If you want more Irish bread in your life, check out Christine's fantastic recipe for Irish Brown Bread (and Irish beer cheese soup, too)!