St. Patrick’s Day is on Saturday this year so I suspect that there’ll be more than the usual green apparel, green rivers, green beer, and shenanigans all over the country, but Joe and I will follow our long-standing tradition of celebrating at home with family and friends and enjoying our own version of corned beef and cabbage. Last year I made 4-leaf clover rolls, but usually I make a traditional “everyday” kind of Irish soda bread to go with our dinner, so this year I decided to change it up and make an American-style soda bread. In Ireland, the everyday version is just four ingredients–flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. According to The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread, the version I made this year is a tea cake because it includes currants, sugar, an egg, and butter.
This is a super easy recipe to make using one bowl and stirring it all together. In similar recipes you have to cut cold butter into the dry ingredients, but this recipes uses melted butter making this quick bread more like a lightning-fast bread that is moist, easy to slice, and has just enough sweetness to satisfy our American palates.
You can see the size difference below in the three different types of dried grapes that are used in baking and cooking all over the world. Zante currants aren’t currants at all. Before they’re dried, they start out as tiny so-called “champagne” grapes that you may have seen in high-end grocery stores but they’re not used to make champagne. And golden raisins are sometimes called Sultanas. I keep all three varieties on hand and they’re pretty much interchangeable in any recipe, although it’s sometimes fun to use two or all three in a recipe. In our Boyle family stollen recipe, we include both currants and golden raisins.
Most Irish soda bread (authentic or otherwise) is usually made into a thick dough that can be shaped into a round and baked in either a round cake pan or on a baking sheet. The ratio of liquid to flour in this recipe is higher so the result is a thick batter that you’ll scrape into a prepared loaf pan, pushing it down into the corners and smoothing the top…
…before sprinkling it with a coarse sugar for a tiny bit of sweet crunch when you bite into it. I always have demerera sugar on hand, so I that’s what I use but you can use turbinado sugar or sanding sugar or you can decide to eliminate the sugar topping entirely.
Like other many other dense quick breads, Irish soda bread needs to bake for nearly an hour and should be left in the pan for a few minutes to firm up…
…before being turned out of the pan to cool completely before slicing.
Once the bread is completely cool, you can go ahead and slice it, bring out good butter to slather on, and serve it to your very appreciative family and friends. Or, you can make it the day before you plan to serve it; just cool the baked bread completely (a good three hours on a rack), then double wrap it tightly and leave it at cool room temperature overnight. The egg and butter keep it fresh and deliver big-time flavor whether you serve it today or tomorrow, with butter or plain. And toasted leftovers with butter and marmalade are delightful for breakfast or a teatime treat.
But don’t make this recipe just once a year. It’s so fast and easy that you can have it anytime with very little effort that yields big rewards.
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Thanks, and bon appetit!
- 3 cups (12-3/4 oz, 361g) all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup (2-1/2 oz, 67 g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (4-1/2 oz, 128g) dried Zante currants
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1-3/4 cups (14 fluid oz, 397g) buttermilk (I use Marburger Farm Dairy Gourmet buttermilk)
- 4 tablespoons (2 oz, 57g) butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon (1/2 oz, 14g) raw or demerara sugar
- Preheat the oven to 375°F and grease a 9" x 5" loaf pan.
- In a large bowl, whisk all the dry ingredients together, then stir in the currants.
- Add the egg, buttermilk, and melted butter and stir just until all the ingredients are evenly mixed.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top, then sprinkle with the topping sugar.
- Bake the bread for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean; the bread will register 200°F to 210°F on an instant-read thermometer.
- Remove the bread from the oven and set it on a rack for 5 minutes, then turn it out of the pan onto the rack to cool completely before slicing.
- Wrap leftovers tightly and store at room temperature.