For St. Patrick's Day, I enjoy making a traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner for the family. We're not Irish, but when you live in Saint Paul, MN -- a very Irish town that celebrates with a parade and all sorts of festivities -- it just feels right to have a little fun around this holiday.
This time of year, corned beef marinated in spices is easy to find at the grocery store, and this year I decided to add another Irish touch to the menu -- Irish Soda Bread. Soda Bread gets its name from its leavening agent — baking soda — which is used instead of yeast to make the bread rise.
It's a quick bread, so it comes together easily. You cut butter into the dough, like a giant biscuit, which gives it a delightful, flaky texture and buttery taste. Start the recipe by measuring the flour. Scoop the flour into the measuring cup with a spoon...
...then level the flour with the back of a knife.
Put the flour and the other dry ingredients in a bowl, and mix them together. I find a whisk works well for this task.
Then, cut in the butter. I find a pastry cutter easiest to use, and when the butter builds up I just scrape the excess off with the back of a table knife and keep working.
I finished by rubbing in the butter using my fingers. Just stick your hands in, find any pieces of butter that are still too big, and rub them between your fingers into smaller pieces.
You're done when the butter is evenly mixed in and the pieces are smaller than pea-sized. Another way to cut in the butter is to put the dry ingredients and the butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, into a food processor. Pulse until the mixture resembles the picture below.
Then, add your buttermilk and currants...
It mixes together fairly easily with a fork and makes a sticky dough. Be sure to mix in all the flour, then turn it out onto a floured board.
Knead it 10 times -- just enough to smooth out the dough a bit and make sure it isn't sticky. That's all that's needed!
After kneading, the dough shapes easily into a ball. Flatten to 6" wide on your greased baking sheet, then take a sharp knife and make a cross in the top, 1/2 inch deep.
That's pretty much it! Now put your bread in the oven and in about 30 minutes you have this amazing warm bread that just soaks up butter and melts in your mouth.
"It's like a giant scone!" said Kate, who loves currant scones.
I guess my biggest mistake was making this the day before our corned beef dinner. We sliced it up and half disappeared within minutes, with two ravenous girls just home from school and one hungry mom who finally had to cut themselves off! The rest we had toasted for breakfast; it was a little crumbly but very, very tasty.
The good news is that the bread only takes about 15 minutes to get made and into the oven, so I easily whipped together a new loaf the next day. (I suggest buying a quart of buttermilk because you're going to want to make this twice, too!) The second time around, I adapted the recipe to a more savory version, cutting the sugar down to 1 tablespoon and not adding the currants.
Again, a huge hit! Not as sweet, which was perfect for a dinner bread in my opinion. The recipe as written is wonderful as well, and a great choice for a brunch bread or afternoon snack. I'd make both again!
This Irish Soda Bread is great for celebrating St. Patrick's Day, and it mixes up so quickly that it's a good bread to make for dinner anytime. Try it! I'd love to hear your comments if you do.
Liz is paid to write for the Land O'Lakes Recipe Buzz™ Blog.