Irish Soda Bread


Bari,  an enthusiastic  friend of mine, casually mentioned she would be making corned beef and cabbage for St Patrick’s Day dinner this year. Me, being the traditionalist I am and having Richard’s mom visiting this week,decided I would prepare corned beef as well. Bari, also added she would be making Irish soda bread. My ears perked and the ball was rolling. Irish soda bread? She mentioned caraway seeds and raisins and how she only makes the bread one time a year. Bari uses Martha Stewart’s recipe. I could hardly wait to get home and look the recipe up online, caraway seeds? Hum…..what do I think of caraway seeds? I never have cooked with them that I remember. Don’t really LOVE rye bread, but maybe I just haven’t given those little seeds a fair chance.   Hum…..what DO I think of caraway seeds?  Are they an important part of the recipe? No, the seeds are not included in all the recipes I found. As I skimmed through a few websites comparing recipes and watching Martha make soda bread on YouTube I decided to try a version from the Food Network’s website as my base and add a twist of my own. Nothing against Martha but I had purchased buttermilk the day before and had no wheat bran or caraway seeds in the cupboard. What did I have? Where were those raisins? I found a bag of dried cranberries, took a nibble, sized up the bag and decided it was time to put them to use. The recipe I decided to use had one teaspoon of orange zest added to the dry ingredients. Luckily my friend Brenda had left two organic oranges in my fridge from last weekend’s dinner so I was covered there. I decided to soak the cranberries in orange juice overnight. NO,  not orange juice, Cointreau, an orange liqueur would be perfect. As I poured two tablespoons or so over the cranberries I thought of the cost of Cointreau and the yummy margaritas I had made with it last summer. That sunny day seemed so far away: warmth, lime juice, salty rims, tequila…..Snap Out Of It !!!!!  Focus on soda bread !!!!!  Ok, the only other change I made to the recipe was replacing one cup of  the white flour with spelt flour. Can’t hurt to add a little whole goodness to the experiment. The bread dough was sticky as the recipe had predicted: flour the board, your hands, the knife to cut the big cross on the top with and finally,  the dough.  Now it can be shaped into a round loaf and placed on a parchment covered baking sheet without totally sticking to your hands. I molded the dough and cut a 3/4 ” deep cross through the top of the loaf and remembered Martha had said it was to ward off evil spirits. Can’t hurt and I like the idea,  so I cut deeply into the dough and slipped the bread into the oven. Forty five minutes later the loaf was done and looked amazingly appealing. I set the bread on a cooling rack until the guests arrived a few hours later. The bread was the hit for sure; delicious, beautiful, perfect texture……endless possibilites for future dinners. Oh and just between you and me….I drained the Cointreau  into a shot glass and had a  tasty little sip, wouldn’t want that expensive liqueur to go to waste!

For the recipe go to: Irish Soda Bread Recipe : Ina Garten : Food Network

Slainte!  (cheers!)