I love celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. Growing up on Long Island, it was a blast seeing the parade broadcast on TV, and when I was older and living in Manhattan, I loved going to the bars for some green beer. The Irish know how to celebrate, don’t they? I suppose that’s why my best friend, Cathleen Tierney-Finn, and I get along so well. I made this bread in honor of her one year, and everyone fell in love with it. Unfortunately, with me living in Los Angeles and Cathleen in Florida, she couldn’t eat it. But she could make it herself! Here’s to you, Cathleen.
Happy St. Patty’s Day!
I researched the origins of this wonderful quick bread and found out that the Irish actually adopted it from here in the U.S., where “soft” wheat, which doesn’t use yeast and allows for faster bread making, was exported to Ireland. The original soda breads contained nothing more than flour, buttermilk, baking soda and salt. To finish it, a cross was cut on the top with a knife, to ward off the devil and protect the household.
The usual Irish Soda Bread is a cozy concoction made with raisins. What could be more homey and delicious on a cold day? Can’t you just imagine sitting in your fuzzy slippers eating a warm slice with a bit of butter and cup of tea? Yum!
The typical recipe, nowadays, is made with raisins, but I’ve also seen it with some orange zest and cranberries. I love any bread with some extra ingredients that make the texture interesting. That’s why I really like this recipe—it goes one step further with some candied ginger, which permeates the whole loaf and gives it that extra burst of flavor. I even like it with cream cheese or drizzled with honey.
Irish Soda Bread with Dried Cranberries, Apricots, and Ginger
Yield: 1 large or 2 small loaves of bread (10 servings)
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp kosher salt
4 Tbsp (½ stick) cold butter, cut into ½-inch dice
1 ¾ cups cold buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup julienned apricots
½ cup crystallized ginger
1 egg (optional)
1 tsp milk (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and the flour mixture on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.
With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk and the egg in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Now add the cranberries, apricots, and crystallized ginger. Mix to combine.
The mixture may seem a bit wet, but dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. You may want to make 2 smaller loaves out of your dough. Place the loaf or loaves on the prepared sheet pan with parchment paper. If using the egg wash, beat the egg and add the milk, then brush the top and sides of the bread. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.
Makes 1 large or 2 smaller loaves of bread, good for about 10 people.