You asked for it…Moist and Flavorful Irish Soda Bread!

Ok, I’m not Irish.  As a matter of fact, I consider myself to be a “mutt” although my husband says that I am Italian by marriage.  So suffice it to say that the only reason I ever even thought to make Irish Soda Bread was for our bakery customers who request it for the St. Patrick’s Day holiday.

Over the years I have tried several traditional Irish Soda Bread recipes and most have turned out as expected.  Honestly, I find this type of bread to be on the dry side  and overall unappealing; this coming from a total “bread head”.  This year I decided to continue my quest to find an Irish Soda Bread recipe that was moist and flavorful.  After researching and reading numerous reviews, I decided to try several and came up with a real winner with the recipe I found on allrecipes.com.

This Irish Soda Bread was a breeze to make and is a recipe that I will continue to bake year round.  Both moist and full of flavor, this bread would be a perfect accompaniment to breakfast, lunch and/or dinner.   I made two varieties this week, plain and whiskey soaked raisin studded.  I’ll also experiment with the recipe to see if I can replicate it in a Gluten Free variety.

Note, if you don’t have buttermilk handy you can simply make your own by adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per cup of milk.  Allow this mixture to sit for 5 minutes before using.  Making your own buttermilk is also less expensive than buying buttermilk in the store.  I guarantee that you’re not going to be disappointed with this Irish Soda Bread recipe.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg, lightly beatenMoist and Flavorful Irish Soda Bread
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and baking soda. Blend egg and buttermilk together, and add all at once to the flour mixture. Mix just until moistened. Stir in butter. Pour into prepared pan.
  2. Bake for 65 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the bread comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Wrap in foil for several hours, or overnight, for best flavor.
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Buy Local…the Challenge!

Baked's Berlin T-shirt

Buy Locally in Berlin

There is a challenge in our area to go one month purchasing local food and product without buying from sources like chain supermarkets and warehouse stores.  We have accepted this challenge personally and professionally and can attest to the fact that the term “challenge” is appropriate for this project.  The fact is, some things are easier to purchase locally than others.  No matter, the fact is buying local has significant advantages whether you are interested in higher quality ingredients, stimulating the local economy and/or reducing your “carbon footprint”.

It began when Christie McDowell, owner of the Good Farm in Berlin, challenged herself this very same way last Summer. “The goal I set was to buy as direct from the producer as possible and buy nothing with preservatives or any unnecessary additives,” McDowell said. “I found the gaps in local food options, what you can get and where you can get it. I bought some of the healthy options at Ocean City Organics in West Ocean City if farmers’ markets didn’t have something”.  Bryan Brushmiller, owner of Burley Oaks Brewery which is preparing to open it’s doors on August 12th, was inspired by McDowell’s project and has joined forces to expand the challenge.  Brushmiller himself purchases rye, hops and barley from local farmers for use in his handcrafted brew.

Shelly and I have always been committed to purchasing as much locally as possible.  Not because it’s the new “buzz word” for marketing, but because it just simply seems, to us, to be the right thing to do.  When you purchase locally, ingredients are fresher and higher in quality, you stimulate your local economy and because “the goods” are not transported from hundreds of miles away, the “carbon footprint” is reduced which helps Mother Earth.

Owning a business and having to purchase product in bulk poses significant difficulty with some vendors.  Dairy has presented a challenge, although local eggs haven’t been easy to purchase on a bulk scale either. Ironically, several egg producers in the area have committed all of their product to the Whole Foods Corporation. Go figure, the “big boys” who also promote buying locally are preventing the small businesses from doing the same.  Unbleached and unbromated  flour is a whole other story.  On a positive note, fruits, veggies, beef, poultry, seafood, coffee, cheeses, honey, soaps, lotions, crafts, jewelry and of course, all natural DESSERTS, BREADS and BEVERAGES are no problem!

This challenge is raising awareness in our community and identifying the gaps, that together, we can work to fill.  Brushmiller and McDowell want anyone raising food or fishing locally who want to promote their wares to contact them at www.burlyoak.com and at www.wegrowgoodfood.com.

Pinch me…I’m not Irish, but I love Soda Bread!

Soda breads are a variety of quick bread and are appropriately named since “bread soda”, otherwise known as baking soda, is used as a raising agent rather than yeast.   The ingredients of traditional soda bread are flourbread sodasalt, and buttermilk.  Although, you can get really creative  here and include raisins, seeds, nuts, savory herbs, even oats.  The buttermilk in the dough contains lactic acid, which reacts with the baking soda to form tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide. * I have seen some recipes that replace the buttermilk with live yogurt or even stout.  I wanted to go the traditional route and didn’t have buttermilk on hand, so I made my own by simply adding 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or you can use lemon juice per one cup of milk.

You can form the bread loaf into the “traditional” round or flatten it and cook it on a griddle for the “griddle cake” form. Whichever shape your Irish Soda Bread takes it is important to resist the urge to over knead this dough.  Only work it long enough to incorporate the ingredients.  This brings me to the best thing about soda breads and is one of the reasons that they began to appear in the mid-19th century in Europe.  Soda breads are easy and inexpensive to make and they are delicious!  Of course the beginning of the 19th century was also when bicarbonate of soda first became available for use.

There are several stories about the significance of the cross made in the middle of the Irish Soda Bread loaf.  Some say that it is the “sign of the cross” and wards off evil spirits.  Others, that the cut in the top of this loaf assists the cooking process by allowing air circulation which in turn helps the loaf rise better.  Most admit that the  cut is an easy guideline for serving even slices.  What I am certain of is that this bread won’t last long on the dinner table.  It’s fabulous, particularly served warm slathered in butter.

The following recipe makes 2 loafs

7 cups unbleached, unbromated flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1-1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

3 cups buttermilk

Sift to combine the flour, baking soda, salt and sugar in a large bowl.  Making a well in the center, add the buttermilk and stir to form dough.  Turn out onto a floured surface and gently knead just enough to incorporate the ingredients. Form into a log and divide in half to form 2 round loafs.  Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cut a 1″ deep cross into the top of each loaf and bake for 45 minutes in a 375 degree oven or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Enjoy!