Irish Soda Bread
  • 3 cups bleached all-purpose flour , plus more for work surface
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 tablespoons softened + 1 tablespoon melted)
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Whisk flours, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt in large bowl.
  3. Work softened butter into dry ingredients with fork or fingertips until texture resembles coarse crumbs.
  4. Add buttermilk and stir with a fork just until dough begins to come together.
  5. Turn out onto flour-coated work surface; knead until dough just becomes cohesive and bumpy, 12 to 14 turns. (Do not knead until dough is smooth, or bread will be tough.)
  6. Pat dough into a round about 6 inches in diameter and 2 inches high; place on greased or parchment-lined baking sheet or in cast-iron pot, if using.
  7. Place the loaf on a cookie sheet and cut a cross shape into the top.
  8. Bake until golden brown and a skewer inserted into center of loaf comes out clean or internal temperature reaches 180 degrees, 40 to 45 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven and brush with melted butter; cool to room temperature, 30 to 40 minutes
For Vicki and all my other friends I post the Cook's Illustrated Recipe for real Irish Soda Bread as they give it. I prefer it without the sugar and with 2 teaspoons salt (which makes unsalted butter great to spread on it), but I know that America has a sweet tooth, so here it is! For jam and cheese the sweeter bread is fine, but with soup or other dishes it really tastes better without the sugar. Most important is that it requires really light handling and a minimum of kneading, other wise it turns out tough. I read somewhere once that there should not be a longer time interval than 3 minutes between adding the buttermilk and placing the bread in the oven, and that works. It's great to have a tasty bread ready in an hour, including baking time. Fresh out of the oven, this bread is a great accompaniment to soups or stews, and leftovers make fine toast. The variations following this recipe, with their flavorful grains and additions, can stand alone. Irish Soda Bread Mar 1997 For bread with a moist, flavorful crumb and a crisp, tender crust, use both cake flour and all-purpose flour and go light on the buttermilk. The Problem: Most Americans are familiar with American-style Irish soda bread, which adds eggs, butter, and sugar along with caraway seeds, raisins, and a multitude of other flavorings to the traditional Irish recipe. The Goal: "Irish" Irish soda bread is less sweet and more simple than most American versions, usually calling only for flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. We wanted to try our hand at this more authentic version of the bread. With its velvety crumb and rough-textured, crunchy crust, it is versatile enough to serve with butter and jam for breakfast, for sandwiches at lunch, and alongside the evening meal. The Solution: Our first tests focused on flour. A loaf made with all-purpose flour produced a doughy, heavy bread with a thick crust. To soften the crumb, we added some cake flour to the mix, and this made a difference. (It also made historical sense. Because of Ireland's climate, the wheat grown there is a soft, low-protein variety more similar to cake flour than to American all-purpose, which is relatively high in protein.) A version made with all cake flour, however, was heavy and compact. A ratio of 3 cups all-purpose to 1 cup cake flour proved best. With only the four basic ingredients of flour, buttermilk, baking soda, and salt, our bread was lacking in flavor and still a little tough; we turned to sugar and butter. Because traditionally very small amounts of butter and sugar are sometimes added to Irish soda bread, we felt we could proceed with caution. Two tablespoons sugar and a total of 3 tablespoons butter were added. The sugar added flavor without making the bread sweet, and the butter softened the dough just enough with out making it overly rich. STEP BY STEP: Proper Handling for a Proper Irish Bread 1. Mix the dough with a fork until it just comes together. 2. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead just until loose flour gets incorporated; do not overknead. 3. Shape the dough into a six-inch round. 4. Place the loaf on a cookie sheet and cut a cross shape into the top. [Irish cook Darina Allen says the cut is "to let the fairies out", and to make sure that it goes right over the edge of the bread - a really deep cut with a very sharp knife. - T] 5. For a golden crust that's thin and crisp, with a bit of a chew, bake in a cast-iron pan.