Here in the outskirts of New York City, it is fairly common for people to ask you where you’re family’s from. Almost everyone at some point had ancestors pass through Ellis Island, and most of us are a good mix of nationalities. My mix is Irish and German, which is a fairly common combination around here. Four generations have been born since my great grandparents sailed past the Statue of Liberty, and truthfully we don’t have a lot of family traditions, or even know where we’re from. So my main clues of my Irish heritage are my love of beer (that could be the German side, too!) and my hair turns brassy anytime I try to lighten it.
I’ve always been a little envious of people with family trees they can trace back for centuries. Especially if they have old china and family recipes to go with it. So I’ve always liked Saint Patrick’s Day. It’s a way to celebrate my heritage, even if I have only have a few details about what my heritage actually is. However, my days of wearing green and pounding Guinness at an Irish pub until the wee hours are long behind me (which is probably a good thing). And corned beef and cabbage are just not my thing. But I’m always up for some bread baking.
If you’re new to bread making, Irish soda bread is a good bread to start with. It’s not fussy. It has no yeast, so no proofing or rising time (That’s why it’s called soda bread, because it uses baking soda instead of yeast!). It’s quick to mix together, and you bake it in a cast iron skillet. The addition of butter and sugar makes this bread slightly different than a traditional soda bread, but it improves the flavor tremendously.
from Cook’s Illustrated
- 3 c. all purpose flour
- 1 c. cake flour
- 2 tbl. sugar
- 1 & 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 & 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
- 1 & 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 tbl. butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 tbl. butter, melted
- 1 & 3/4 c. buttermilk
Preheat oven to 400°. Whisk flours, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt together in a large bowl. Add softened butter (save melted butter for later), and use your fingers to incorporate into the flour mixture. Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in 1 & 1/2 c. of the buttermilk. Use a fork to mix the buttermilk into the flour. Add up to the last 1/4 c. of buttermilk, a tablespoon at a time, until a shaggy dough comes together and there is no dry flour left. Shape into a ball and put into a 12″ cast iron skillet. Score an X into the top of the bread, about 1″ deep.
Place skillet in the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the bread comes out clean. Take out of the oven and place skillet on a wire rack. Brush the top of the bread with melted butter. Let bread cool in skillet for at least 15 minutes, then serve warm.