Whomever coined the phrase “easy as pie” must not have ever tried Irish soda bread from scratch; the simplest loaves in the world to make, rich, buttery Irish soda bread is crusty, dense and scone-like. As with scones, you could add any number of ingredients to this basic canvas; try grated cheese, chopped fresh herbs, dried fruit or chopped nuts. Add any additions to the mixture once the butter has been cut into the dry ingredients, then add the buttermilk and shape into a ball for a simple, rustic loaf.
The dough itself couldn’t be easier. Mix the dry ingredients, then cut in the butter. You could cut it into bits, coarsely grate it, or shave pieces of butter off the block using a vegetable peeler for whimsical curls.
Then blend them in with your fingers or a fork until the mixture is crumbly. Make a well and pour in the buttermilk.
Stir and gather the dough into a ball. Knead it a few times.
Then place each loaf in a buttered cake pan. If you don’t have cake pans, set them on a baking sheet and they’ll be fine.
Bake until golden and cut into wedges to eat while still warm. Yum.
Irish Wheaten Soda Bread
adapted from Gifts from the Kitchen (Douglas & McIntyre)
3 cups whole-wheat flour
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup butter, chilled and cut into bits
3 cups buttermilk or plain yogurt, thinned with milk to the consistency of buttermilk
Preheat oven to 375˚ F.
In a large bowl, stir together the flours, salt, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the butter and blend (or pulse the mixture in the food processor) until well combined and crumbly. If you like, add grated cheese, herbs, nuts or dried fruit at this point. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and add the buttermilk, stirring until blended.
Knead the dough until it comes together in one piece, then knead the ball 10 times. Cut in half and shape into two round loaves. Place each in a buttered 8″ or 9″ round cake pan.
Bake for 1 hour, or until golden and the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.
Makes two loaves.