Mrs. O’Callaghan’s Soda Bread
It’s always a bummer when St. Patty’s Day falls on a weekday, but maybe it’s for the best. Especially given that this weekend is the start of March Madness, I probably don’t need any other reasons to cram beer down my throat…
So rather than making something with Guinness which was my first thought, I decided to make something a bit more old school: Soda Bread. There’s a lot to love about soda bread. It’s about as simple as baking gets, it produces a fantastic loaf, and it goes well with beer.
This was my final loaf!
I used a recipe from an old issue of Bon Appetit that I’ve had bookmarked for awhile. They apparently traveled all over Ireland hunting out the best soda bread recipe and this was the result of their search. I honestly haven’t had soda bread enough to know how this one stacks up, but I will say that I thought it was pretty darn good!
I like it when recipes are named (Mrs. O’Callaghan’s). I also wish it included a phone number, that way if it sucks I can call up the Mrs. and tell her what’s what.
1) Preheat oven to 425 and mix all your dry ingredients in a large bowl.
2) Once your dry ingredients are mixed well, cube your butter and cut it into the dry ingredients. I just use my fingers to mix it in until it’s in pea-sized balls throughout the flour.
3) Add the cold buttermilk and give everything a stir. It should form a saggy dough.
4) You don’t need to knead this dough very much. It’ll be pretty messy. So just knead it a few times to even out the dough and then form a rough ball with it.
5) Set the ball on a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick spray.
6) Use a serrated knife to cut a big X in the top of the bread.
7) Bake the bread for 50-60 minutes. It should sound hollow when you thump it! It’ll still be pretty dense though.
8) Let it cool for 30 minutes when it comes out of the oven. Serve it with bread!
The buttermilk is really the key to this recipe. It gives the bread a great tangy flavor and also helps produce the bubbles that give it its lift since there is no yeast in the thing.
Start by preheating your oven to 425 and then mixing all your dry ingredients in a large bowl. The brown sugar gives the bread a tiny bit of sweetness and the whole wheat flour is essential in my opinion. It means a great color and flavor for the soda bread.
Once your dry ingredients are well whisked, cube up the butter and mix it into the dry ingredients. This is similar to making a pie crust, but with much less butter and a lot more flour. I just use my fingers to mix in the butter until it’s in pea-sized globs throughout the flour.
Next add your cold buttermilk and give it all a stir. If it looks particularly dry, add another few tablespoons of buttermilk. I had a hard time getting my dough to come together probably because I have a heavy hand when it comes to cups of flour. I just added a few more tablespoons of buttermilk and it worked out great.
Stir the mixture together until it forms what BA calls a “saggy dough.” I’m not really sure if mine was saggy so much as it was just kind of lumpy.
Here’s my “saggy” dough.
You don’t want to work this too much and you want to get it in the oven as soon as possible. So just knead it a few times to even out the dough and then form a rough ball with the dough. Literally, it should be like 30 seconds from bowl to baking sheet.
The baking sheet by the way, you should spray with some non-stick spray or coat it lightly in a neutral oil.
Don’t forget to give the bread it’s signature cross on the top! Try to use a serrated knife if you have one. It’ll work best that way. It’s possible that I went a bit too deep on my cross cuts.
It’s hard to control such things when you’re as strong as I am. (Sarcasm people.)
Bake this for about 40 50-60 minutes. It should sound kind of hollow when you thump it. It’ll be pretty dense. After it comes out of the oven, move it to rack and let it cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing into it.
With some butter, this stuff really hits the spot.
Soda bread is best to eat right away, but it makes for pretty excellent toast on day two or three also. I think it would also make great bread crumbs or croutons because it has a great firm texture and nice nutty flavor.
One of the easier loafs of bread I’ve ever made and definitely delicious.
Give it a shot and Happy St. Patty’s everybody!