For as much as I love France and all things French, I have to admit that I'm an Irish gal, and my beloved dad never let me forget it growing up. On an almost daily basis, I would hear "Don't forget, you're an Irish girl." just before he would go on to sing the praises of the Irish (the best looking, the brightest, the best voices, the best food, etc.). My grandparents had immigrated from Ireland in the early 1920s, and there was immense pride in their homeland which transferred to my dad. Growing up, I would hear story after story of my Irish grandparents, from my grandfather's great humor to my grandmother's and great aunts' cooking (Irish stew, Corned beef and cabbage and of course Irish Soda Bread). My poor mother, who has never been much of a cook herself, couldn't compete. I recall one corned beef episode that was scarring...for everyone involved...but I won't get into those details here.
I must say that I enjoy an Irish pub, where I dive into all the fish and chips and shepherds pies I can. But I'm not one to tackle Irish cuisine at home. It's heavy and it makes enough to feed a typical Irish family, and we're only 4 here...which means too many leftovers. One exception to this rule is Irish Soda Bread because it is both easy (takes 5 minutes to mix up) and relatively good for you (just two tablespoons of butter).
What I love about this soda bread is that it has a slight sweetness without being too sweet, it is not floury or too heavy in the least and it has some moisture to it. It's the perfect soda bread recipe if you ask me, and anyone can try it, you don't have to be a culinary genius! I sprinkle pearl sugar on top of mine, which is probably a huge Irish taboo, but it looks and tastes very good. Almost like a light crust. This bread is excellent with some honey butter and you can toast it days after you make it, it still tastes great.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Irish Soda Bread with Currants:
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
2.5 Tb sugar (plus one tablespoon for sprinkling on top, optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 Tb. unsalted butter softened
1.5 c. buttermilk
2 Tb. pearl sugar for top
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment or a silpat.
Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. One tablespoon at a time, work in two tablespoons of the butter with your fingers, you will end up with a coarse meal-like dough. Stir in the buttermilk and the currants and mix with a fork until it comes together. Transfer to a floured countertop and knead just until the dough holds itself together, it will be bumpy, not smooth. This will take less than one minute.
Pat the dough into a 6 inch round, 2 inches thick and place on the baking sheet. If desired, sprinkle with one tablespoon of sugar or two tablespoons of pearl sugar. Mark an "x" on top with a very sharp or serrated knife. Bake until golden brown, around 40 - 45 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Melt the remaining one tablespoon of butter and brush over the top of the loaf.