Saturday, April 6, 2013

O'Dougherty approved

This loaf is a foot across. It's dense and crusty and even a little dry, but there's something my family just loves about it. We are Doughertys, after all. And this is Irish soda bread. It really is tasty.

I got the recipe from "Bon Appetit," which published it as "Mrs. O'Callaghan's Soda Bread," from Ballinalacken Castle Country House and Restaurant, in Ireland. This is traditional Irish soda bread, with the exception of the addition of sugar, which cooks have started including only in recent generations. Many recipes online call for eggs or dried fruit. These may taste good but would be considered "cake" in Ireland, not bread.

I am in love with the idea of having freshly baked bread in less than an hour, start to finish. There's no yeast, no rising time, and very little kneading. The baking soda's abilities as a leavening agent are amazing and make a great science lesson for the kids.


Nonstick cooking spray
3 c. all-purpose flour
3 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. (half a stick) chilled margarine or butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
2 c. buttermilk*

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray heavy baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside. Whisk together flours, sugar, soda and salt. Add butter and cut into flour mixture until no large chunks remain. Add buttermilk and stir until shaggy dough forms. Turn dough out onto floured surface. Knead only until dough comes together, about 10 turns. Shape dough into 9-inch round, about 1 inch high.

Place on baking sheet. Cut a large X, about 1/2 inch deep, in top of dough, almost all the way to edges. Bake dough in center of oven until a bamboo skewer goes in without sticking and comes out clean. Mine was perfect at 32 minutes. The original recipe says 55 to 60 minutes. I attribute the significant difference to my altitude, which is 4,200 feet. Transfer bread to wire rack and cool completely. Serve with honey butter or jam.

*Or pour 2 tablespoons vinegar into a 2-cup measuring cup, then add milk to make 2 cups liquid. Stir and let stand for 10 minutes.