I was incapable of resisting. Despite the fact that the last New York Times recipe that burned such a hole in my monitor that I had to try it ASAP was a caustic disaster, I hold no grudges against the Gray Lady. Not when she, or more specifically Melissa Clark, graces the pages with what she considers the ultimate soda bread, “baked in a heavy iron skillet so that the top and bottom crusts become crunchy and browned while the center stays tender and pale, studded with treacly bits of raisins.”
I’ve never made Irish soda bread before and eaten it almost as rarely, so I can’t offer a review with any authority, but what I loved about this article is neither could Clark. She was told by a friend married to an Irishman and living in his country that though her version was rich and lovely, it neither looked nor tasted like the real deal. Apparently, nobody in Ireland serves real soda bread anymore, she said, and even if they did, it would have no raisins, eggs, butter or caraway seeds. After trying a version faithful to the original and finding it delicious when warm, but hard, dry and bland when cold, Clark decided being authentic was overrated, and went back to her old formula.
I salute this, and considering that I’m not Irish, neither is my husband or the vast majority of the coworkers I will foist this upon today, I think that frees me to also choose a tasty bread that approaches my idea soda bread perfection over one that’s bona fide. I can tell this will be my go-to recipe; it’s both crusty and tender, and manages to lock in its moisture in a way that reminds me of a certain vaunted scone. Yup, we’re talking about that level of good.
And since we’ve already thrown authenticity the wind, I bet that the bread would be equally good with fennel seeds replacing the caraway ones, or replacing the raisins with any kind of dried fruit. You’re supposed to serve it with cheddar and apples, but I just wanted to hook it up with a dollop of créme fraiche. Yeah, yeah, blasphemy, blah blah. I’ll start feeling guilty about that after my next piece, m’kay?
Irish Inspirations Elsewhere:
- Another one for the skillet! Elise makes a gorgeous soda bread, and assures us that it is indeed eaten in Ireland.
- Nic at Baking Sheet makes a kneaded soda bread
- Molly’s scones beautifully exhibit the fennel seed and dried fruit combo
- Matt makes a soda bread from Bon Appétit
- The Irish Soda Bread I’d intended to make, before the NYTimes one flagged me down and demanded near-immediate gratification
- I don’t mean to boast, but this Guinness Chocolate Cake just might be the best recipe on this site
- As it’s suddenly become hot cocoa weather again, perhaps a little Bailey’s could perk it up?
Skillet Irish Soda Bread Served With Cheddar and Apples
New York Times 3/14/07
Yield: 1 10-inch loaf.
Butter for greasing pan plus 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 eggs, well beaten
1 1/2 cups raisins or currants
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
Good aged Cheddar cheese, for serving
Tart apples, cut into slices, for serving.
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 10-inch oven-proof skillet and line with parchment or waxed paper. (Deb note: Mine came out a bit taller, as my cast-iron is 8-inches and deep.)
2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, eggs and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just combined. Do not overmix. Stir in the raisins or currants and caraway seeds.
3. Pour batter into skillet. Brush top with remaining butter. Bake until golden and firm to touch, about 1 hour. Cool 10 minutes before slicing and serving with Cheddar and apples.