February 28, 2013

Red Shoes & Irish Soda Bread

"There are only two types of women that wear red shoes, and YOU my dear are no Spanish dancer". 

That little gem came out of the mouth of my friend's 86 year old mother, delivered in the thickest Irish brogue you could imagine.

We had been out shopping and she had purchased a pair of red shoes.   Upon showing off her new purchase, that was her mother's response.  Did I mention that said friend was in her 50's?!
I was still in my 20's at the time and thought it was one of the funniest things I had ever heard, the fact that it was delivered with perfect comic timing from an 86 year old woman made it even better.

That happened over 15 years ago and it still cracks me up when I think about it.  To this day, I have never met another person (of ANY age) that was as much of a firecracker as that lovely Irish lass.   

This is her recipe, it is a touch sweeter than most soda breads I've had and a little cakier.  It goes brilliantly with a strong cuppa tea. 

There are many variations of soda bread out there.  Most traditionally, it is not sweet and does not have raisins in it.  I like this version, so it's what I make and quite honestly, that is an integral part of cooking and baking as far as I'm concerned.  If you are making something you like, you are more likely to cook and bake and isn't that the point here?

Yes, there are times when you want to make something as close to "the real deal" as possible and sometimes that matters a little less.  If you tend to like less sweet, in theory you should be able to reduce the amount of sugar to 1/2 cup without any major disasters.  I haven't done this, so I can't be held responsible for the results! 
If you don't care for raisins you can omit them or stick with all currants.  I will never admit to this in public, but perhaps you could swap out the raisins for a different dried fruit. 

This bread is great the first day, a little less on the second and by by the third day: make toast.   It makes a rather large loaf, so you could split the dough in half, reduce the baking time and just freeze the other one...  OR if, like me, you tend to make enough to feed half the neighborhood,  make someones day and share your golden, studded beauty with a few friends.

Irish Soda Bread

4 c. AP flour, plus extra for board
4 tsp. baking powder
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. caraway seeds (optional)
1/2 c. golden raisins
1/2 c. brown raisins
1/2 c. currants
1/2 c. butter
2 large eggs, beaten
1 c. whole milk

Preheat oven to 350.

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. 
If using caraway seeds, add to flour mixture.

In a separate bowl, combine raisins and currants. 
Toss with a few tablespoons of flour mixture to coat. 
Set aside.

Using a pastry blender, fork, or food processor cut in butter until pebble sized pieces remain.  Add milk and eggs, mix to combine (I don't recommend food processor here).   Fold in raisins and currants, then turn out onto well-floured board.  Dough will be sticky, using floured hands, mold into a round or oblong loaf.  This is a quick bread and is not meant to be kneaded, take care not to overwork the dough.


Place on baking pan lined with parchment paper or in cast iron pan (preferable) in center of oven.

Bake for 1 hour, remove from oven and place on cooling rack. 
Brush top with butter while hot.

(because I lack patience, I sliced mine while it was still warm... It is better to wait until it has cooled completely before you cut into it)


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