One Recipe, Two Loaves – A Savory and a Sweet Irish Soda Bread

A re-post from the past for current days. An easy bread to empower the most hesitant. Deliciously simple.

“So, her hands scuffled over the backboard, the reddening stove sent its plaque of heat against her where she stood in a floury apron by the window.” By Seamus Heaney, from “North”, 1975

March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day and the return of Daylight Savings Time…all in the same week.
A couple of days to celebrate in spite of all the turmoil in the world.
Make some time for yourself, perhaps in your kitchen? Let it be a haven of appreciation and thankfulness. Bread baking is a personal restorative process. When all else seems overwhelming, baking a loaf of bread can be both grounding and nourishing. It can be a connection with history, the now and hope for the future.

Of all the past two years of Pandemic Baking going on, with lots of talk and attention going to yeast breads, sour dough in particular, little was mentioned about soda bread. I am not sure why, but there was a noticeable absence of tribute to this historic bread. Soda Bread doesn’t take a lot of time nor skill to complete…maybe that is why it was lacking in attention. Little ado and you have a loaf of bread. No waiting for a culture to develop. One just does it. Plain and simple. In an hour your loaf if ready to slice.

Irish Soda Bread has a long history connected to both Ireland and surprisingly American Indian cooking. The texture and grain is beautiful and sturdy. It works well for sandwiches and toast. It is simply a good everyday bread. This recipe as you will see can be savory or sweet with just a few tweaks. I have made this recipe many time adding fresh herbs, nuts, grated cheese and even red pepper flakes.

Irish Soda Bread…timeless and timely on this Day, March 17th, 2022.

Warm loaf with a smear of softened Kerrygold Butter.

A Sweet and Savory Irish Soda Bread - One Recipe, Two Loaves

Ingredients for Loaf #1 – Plain and Simple

  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups buttermilk

Ingredients for Loaf #2 – Marmalade Loaf

  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade, divided in half

Directions for Loaf #1

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. Sift the flour, salt and baking soda together in a mixing bowl.
  3. Make a “well” in the center and pour in 1 1/2 cups buttermilk and mix gently. Add more buttermilk if dough seems too dry. This dough should be soft and somewhat wet. Scrape dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.
  4. Knead dough until smooth and shape into an 8 inch round, slightly flattened disk. Place dough on prepared sheet pan and using a sharp knife dipped in water, make an “X” in the top.
  5. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until bread is golden brown and crusty. When you remove the loaf from the oven and tap on the bottom it should sound hollow. Serve warm with softened butter.

Directions for Loaf #2

  1. Preheat oven to 425 and prepared sheet pan.
  2. Sift flour, salt and baking soda together, making a “well” in the center. Add yogurt, cream and half of the marmalade. Stir together quickly. Scrape dough onto a floured work surface and knead a few times.
  3. Shape dough into a disk and place on sheet pan. Smear outside of dough with remaining marmalade. Using a sharp knife dipped in water, make an “X” in the top of the dough.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown and crusty.

Both of these loaves keep well for a few days.

Teresa Blackburn. http://www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

Irish Tea Brack for Seamus Heaney

This recipe is in remembrance of Seamus Heaney whose poem, “Remembered Columns”, came to mind last week soon after the tornado created turmoil and destruction in Nashville.

These are times to test us, a time of tornadoes both real and metaphorical.

These are times of social uncertainty, times when we need each other the most while being encouraged to practice “social distancing”.

These are strange and interesting times.

It might just be the time to make all those recipes you have been saving for “later” which is what I have been doing. I have had this recipe for Irish Tea Brack for a few years and finally made it this week. It’s a traditional Irish bread chock-full of dried fruit that is soaked in cold tea and is just fabulous toasted and smeared with butter and/or some soft Camembert.

Thick slabs of “brack” smeared with Kerrygold Butter and soften Camembert was a very good lunch today. Comforting and homey for a quiet St. Patrick’s Day celebration reading Seamus Heaney whose poetry can touch the soul.

Another post from a few years ago on a tornadic night in Nashville “Stormy Turnips and Twisty Tornadoes”

Be kind, be patient. Be safe.

Irish Tea Brack for Seamus Heaney

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups dried fruit, a mix of whatever you like such as cranberries, raisins, chopped apricots, gooseberries, currants, etc…
  • 1 1/3 cup cold tea (I used Earl Grey and Green Tea mixed)
  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar (just whirl regular in a food processor)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons apple pie spice or pumpkin pie spice
  • To serve: softened Kerrygold butter and Camembert cheese

Directions:

  1. Soak the dried fruit in the tea overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a regular size loaf pan.
  3. Whisk the flour, baking powder and pie spice together in a mixing bowl.
  4. Add the dried fruit-tea mixture, the egg and sugar to the flour mix. Blend well and scrape into the prepared loaf pan.
  5. Bake for about 1 hour or until a dark golden brown on top. Test bread with a  toothpick or skewer to make sure it is cooked throughout. Let cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Turn out loaf on the rack to continue to cool.
  6. Delicious sliced and toasted with butter. A smear of Camembert makes it all the better.

This recipe is from the cookbook “homemade” by Clodagh McKenna, published 2011 by Kyle Books.

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