Today, I enJOYed baking and reading about traditional Irish Soda Bread and the multiple versions of recipes that have evolved over the years. It may come as a shock to Irish-Americans that their Irish ancestors who left Ireland during the Famine years did not bring a recipe for Irish Soda Bread with them, but may have picked up the "tradition" after migrating to the United States. My Casey family ancestors (http://www.cfainusa.org) left Ireland in the early 1700s before the Potato Famine began in the 1840s. Beginning in 1845 and lasting for six years, the potato famine killed over a million men, women and children in Ireland and caused another million to flee the country. Irish soda bread became popular in Ireland after the Famine years. If your Irish ancestors had the good sense to leave Ireland for America either before (as my family did) or during the Famine years, they never learned about making soda bread in Ireland. (SOURCE: The History Place, http://www.historyplace.com/worldhistory/famine/introduction.htm and Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread, http://www.sodabread.us/index.htm) I encourage you to go to the SOURCE sites and read the very interesting history behind this tasty concoction of flour, baking powder, salt, and of course--soda. And if you have Irish ancestry--or even if you don't-- and want to join (it's FREE), check out how to become an official member of the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread. Here's the membership certificate:
Our loaf of Irish Soda Bread didn't last long today, but I did manage to snap some photos of the process and of the finished product before we began slicing away at it. I'll include the complete recipe below the tutorial so you can print your own copy or save it in your recipe file. In honor of my ancestors, I'm calling my version (I tweaked the recipe just slightly), Casey Clan's Irish Soda Bread. The basic soda bread is made with flour, baking soda, salt, and soured milk (or buttermilk). The Irish who enJOYed this bread were poor and could afford the more expensive ingredients, so it began as a very simple recipe. Over the years, it has evolved with additional ingredients. In America and other parts of the world, we tend to forget that this is a basic "quick bread" served with meals and not a "dessert dish."
Also, don't forget the other yummy St. Patrick's Day recipe for Eire Pie, here: http://www.pinchofthissmidgenofthat.blogspot.com/search/label/Eire%20%28AY-reh%29%20Pie
Now, in a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and wheat germ.
Add cubed butter, sour cream and egg;
mix, using a pastry blender, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Stir in raisins (optional), buttermilk, and caraway seeds (optional) and mix until a sticky dough forms.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and form into a rounded--sort of mounded--- loaf.
Dust the top lightly with flour before transferring to prepared skillet.
Place in prepared skillet.
Using a sharp knife score a large "X" in the center.
Transfer to preheated oven. Bake until loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. If top begins to brown too quickly, loosely cover with a piece of parchment paper-lined aluminum foil. (I didn't have to do this, and it baked perfectly at one hour baking time.) Remove from oven and while still hot, coat the top crust with butter.
Transfer to a wire rack, cookie sheet, or platter to cool.
Slice, slather with Irish Butter (or salted butter) and enJOY!
A Little Bit 'O History
The oldest reference found to date to a published Soda Bread recipe was in County Down, Ireland ( NOV 1836, Farmer's Magazine (London) p.328, referencing Irish newspaper in County Down).
"A correspondent of the Newry Telegraph gives the following receipt for making 'soda bread', stating that 'there is no bread to be had equal to it for invigorating the body, promoting digestion, strengthening the stomach, and improving the state of the bowels.' He says, 'put a pound and a half of good wheaten meal into a large bowl, mix with it two teaspoonfuls of finely-powdered salt, then take a large teaspoonful of super-carbonate of soda, dissolve it in half a teacupful of cold water, and add it to the meal; rub up all intimately together, then pour into the bowl as much very sour buttermilk as will make the whole into soft dough (it should be as soft as could possibly be handled, and the softer the better,) form it into a cake of about an inch thickness, and put it into a flat Dutch oven or frying-pan, with some metallic cover, such as an oven-lid or griddle, apply a moderate heat underneath for twenty minutes, then lay some clear live coals upon the lid, and keep it so for half an hour longer (the under heat being allowed to fall off gradually for the last fifteen minutes,) taking off the cover occasionally to see that it does not burn.'" (SOURCE: http://www.sodabread.us/index.htm)
Rath Dé ort!
(rah jay urt) (The Grace of God be with you!)