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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Irish Soda Bread

Looking forward to spring and all things green? If you are even just a wee bit Irish or just hungry for some warm fresh-baked bread slathered with more than a wee bit of melting butter? Irish Soda Bread is an easy way to have that warm comforting flavor while waiting for the trees to bud and the grass to turn green. Some folks might look at that rustic loaf of bread and think of it as a giant biscuit with four sections suitable for breaking off in hunks. I look at it as a way to enjoy homemade bread with your favorite soup or stew. Think of it as a delicious way to say goodbye to winter.

With spring seed catalogs arriving with bountiful inspiration to start digging, it is even more tempting to wish spring would hurry up and get here. The colorful pages of beautiful flowers and vegetables have taken the place of cookbooks on my nightstand for bedtime reading. It is probably why I decided to add some fresh herbs to softened butter. This time of year my garden has some intense rosemary and pungent oregano to accent the butter so I opted for some fresh dill and parsley from Oklahoma’s Scissortail Farms to create a special spreadable green butter.

You won’t need any special equipment for making the Irish Soda Bread. Start with a large mixing bowl and a few simple ingredients. I’ve tried several combinations of flour over the years and like to use all unbleached white flour or a combination of other flours. Whole wheat or oat flour also works well. You won’t even need yeast, but buttermilk, baking soda, and baking powder are must-haves. Very little kneading is required and any aspiring cooks in your household would enjoy tackling this simple recipe.

Add your version of green butter and you just might be reassured that spring is on its way! In the meantime just enjoy more than a wee bit of Irish fresh from your oven. I forgot to mention it makes wonderful toast sliced thick of course. You can even make a rustic breakfast sandwich with scrambled eggs. Even thick-sliced cinnamon toast is delicious. However you slice it, Irish Soda Bread is a keeper!

Irish Soda Bread Recipe

This wonderfully easy loaf is so easy and the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of soup or stew. You can green it up with a slather of herb-infused “Green Butter.” If you serve it warm from the oven with the butter it might not make it to the dinner table it is so good. This recipe comes via a long time friend and well-known Tulsa cook and bread baker Mary Gubser. She got the recipe while visiting Darina Allen’s cooking school at Ballymaloe, Ireland. If you don’t have whole wheat flour you can substitute white flour in place of the whole wheat flour for a total of 3 and 1/2 cups of flour. (You can use any combination of flours to make the 3 and 1/2 cups total.)

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter
1 egg, well-beaten
1 and 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 cups currants or raisins (optional)

Adjust oven rack to the middle position. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. You can sprinkle generously with some rolled oats which will add to the bottom crust of this rustic round loaf.

In a large mixing bowl combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar. Stir until well mixed. Combine the butter, egg, and buttermilk. Stir the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula until well blended. (This can be done in a heavy mixer using a flat beater if desired.) Stir in the currants if using them. Turn the dough out on a surface lightly dusted with white flour and knead for about two minutes to gather the dough into a smooth ball. You can divide the dough in half and make two balls or leave in one larger ball. Place on a prepared baking sheet (spaced well apart if making two) Press down lightly. Slash a cross atop each loaf with a razor or super sharp knife. I prefer the single larger version. This will bake into four sections which can be broken apart at the table for ravenous bread lovers. Bake in preheated oven for about 35 to 40 minutes until brown and crusty. Slightly less time is needed for the smaller loaves. Serve hot with your favorite butter.

I love this bread with what I call “Green Butter” especially when looking forward to spring: It is perfect for St. Patrick’s Day when all of us can be a wee bit of Irish!

“Green” Butter

This fresh herb-infused butter is yummy any time of year!

1 stick or 1/2 cup salted butter, softened
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon finely minced or pressed fresh garlic
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs.
(I use a combination of dill and a wee bit of parsley)

Place all ingredients in the mixing bowl and whip thoroughly to incorporate all that green.

Cook’s note: Use fresh herbs for the best results! They are worth the extra expense during the winter months when you might not have fresh ones from the garden.

Sherrel Jones
Sherrel Jones
Sherrel Jones, known locally as Editor of the original Junior Welfare League’s “Stir-Ups” cookbook grew up with an intense love of cooking. Long before her 17-year food columnist days at the Oklahoman, she was in the kitchens and gardens of her family’s farms. “Stir-Ups” was a catalyst for more discovery and inspiration as Sherrel pursued her food education in the United States as well as Italy and France.

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