[Note: This recipe got fresh photos in 2018.]
I had forsworn New York Times recipes after this last caustic disaster, but my resistance didn’t last long. I made it almost two months, and then Melissa Clark graced the pages this week 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 am only human.
I’ve never made Irish soda bread before and eaten it almost as rarely, so I’m sorry I cannot offer a review with any authority, but what charmed me about this was that 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.
Although I’d still like to try the real deal — in Ireland, please, let me know if you need my mailing address for plane tickets — none of the people (husband, coworkers) I will foist this on today are likely to quibble, and even if this is not authentic, it is wildly delicious and going to be my go-to for some time; it’s both crusty and tender, and manages to lock in its moisture in a way that reminds me of a certain vaunted scone.
And since I’ve already abandoned authenticity, might I suggest that this 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.
Skillet Irish Soda Bread
- 4 tablespoons (55 grams) unsalted butter, divided, plus more for pan
- 3 cups (390 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup (130 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 3/4 cups buttermilk
- 1 1/2 cups raisins or dried currants
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds (or more, tot aste)
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, melt 2 tablespoons (28 grams) of butter in a microwave and let cool slightly, then whisk in eggs, followed by the buttermilk until combined. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just moistened; do not overmix. Stir in the raisins or currants and caraway seeds.
Pour batter into prepared skillet. Brush top with remaining butter. Bake until golden and firm to touch, about 1 hour.
Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack before slicing.