Maybe it was Maddy talking about making Irish scones with some friends who'd all spent some time in Dublin or maybe it was the bottle of farm fresh buttermilk that called out to me from the refrigerator shelf at the market or maybe it was the bag of locally ground wheat flour I recently purchased. I don't know. But Irish soda bread has been on my mind for days, and today was finally the day. Not too hot out, stuck in the house while the tree service chips the fallen limbs from my lovely maple, half gone now.
This is a pretty straightforward recipe adapted from Merrill Stubbs at food52. I've written about her recipe before, and linked to it directly, but over the last couple of years, I've made more changes so I thought I'd write about it again and add in my changes.
Serve it with a thin skimming of butter and a little smoked salmon, some lovely jam or a little fresh ricotta cheese. It also complements cheddar beautifully.
Sometimes I make two smaller balls because I like the crusty outer shell. If you'd like to do that, reduce the cooking time to 20 - 25 minutes or so, but check it after 20.
Someday I will play with the recipe a little more and try making it into scones. Or maybe Maddy will!
Irish Soda Bread
(adapted a little from Merrill Stubbs at food52)
makes one 7 inch loaf
2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (you'll also need a little more for kneading and for the baking pan)
1/2 cup old fashioned or rolled oats
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 Tablespoons cold, unsalted butter (leave it in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it)
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
Heat oven to 425 degrees and make sure that you use the middle rack of the oven and have room above for the bread to grow a little.
Sprinkle a little flour on the baking sheet.
Whisk the dry ingredients (flour, oats, wheat germ, baking soda, brown sugar, salt) together in a large bowl. Cut the butter into small chunks and add it to the dough. Use your hands to mix it well into the dry ingredients, pressing the butter chunks into the flour mix until the dough looks like a coarse meal.
Make a well in the middle of the flour and add in the buttermilk and incorporate it a little at a time. You should have a slightly wet ball of dough.
Lightly flour a surface and your hands and gently knead the ball of dough for a minute or two, incorporating a little more flour if it remains too wet. Shape into a ball and then gently flatten the top so that the diameter is about 7 inches.
Sprinkle the top of the dough with a little flour and with a sharp knife cut in about a half inch in an X shape in the center of the dough.
Bake about 30 minutes. Check that it is nicely browned and that the area within the "X" is solid and not shaky or liquify. You can also tap the bottom of the bread to listen for a hollow sound.
Cool well on a rack before slicing.