Less is more with the sacred tradition of soda bread on St. Patrick’s Day.
The secret of a happy St. Patrick’s day is Irish soda bread. The secret of the bread is less.
The less you knead and handle it, the better. The most cherished examples of this “aran soide” are bright, light and free form, never heavy and compacted.
It is a variety of quick bread where the rising comes from sodium bicarbonate instead of yeast. It reacts with the buttermilk or a substitute to form tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide. They give the bread its butter and jam-grabbing texture.
Soda bread is cut into triangles to form the base of the Ulster Fry, a hearty Irish breakfast of sausages, bacon, fried eggs and sautéed mushrooms.
Soda bread never lasts long, as it spoils sooner than regular bread containing vegetable oil.
IRISH SODA BREAD
21⁄2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1⁄3 cup raisins or dried cranberries
3⁄4 cup buttermilk
Mix dry ingredients. Cut in butter and mix to crumbs. Stir in raisins and just enough buttermilk so dough leaves side of bowl.
Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead lightly until smooth, about five minutes. Shape into round loaf. Place on greased cookie sheet. Bake until brown, 35 to 45 minutes. Brush with butter.
Notes: Buttermilk substitutes include yogurt or a teaspoon of vinegar in 3⁄4cup milk. Add one egg, beaten, for a lighter loaf. A quarter cup of chopped nuts is excellent with the raisins. Serve with green mint jelly for a faithful Irish look.