Just another 2 weeks and St. Patrick’s Day is here. Is it just me or is this year just flying by in a whirlwind?
I have to say, Olivia is keeping me busier than ever before. So I squeezed in her 7-months picture update on Instagram just before the next months update will be due already.
Before you know it, it will already be time for Easter! Woahh… hold your horses! How about the Irish holiday first.
Konrad and I have absolutely no Irish roots whatsoever. No wonder that my last St. Patrick’s Day themed post was 3 (!) years ago. Back then I was still into cake/cupcake decorating. So if you are into edible crafts, check it out here.
This year, I finally felt like contributing an Irish recipe in time for the holiday. Actually, a little online research shows there is some controversy around the Irish authenticity of soda bread.
Especially this lightly sweetened version with butter, egg and raisins. I’ve even read some claiming this needs to be called a cake rather than a bread.
But then I just think of banana bread, which is much more cake-like than this Irish soda bread. And Irish Soda Cake just doesn’t jive as much. So bread it is.
At the beginning of this year, I re-committed to healthier eating and as a result I have avoided refined sugar and flour as much as possible. For this bread I experimented with spelt flour for the first time. Spelt is an ancient grain related to wheat but not the same.
Spelt flour is a whole grain flour with a nutty, slightly sweet flavor profile. It has more protein, fewer calories, but also less fiber than wheat flour. Which also makes it easier to digest. It can easily be substituted for wheat flour, especially in cookie and bread recipes.
With spelt flour it is even more important to avoid over mixing (especially in quick breads like this Irish soda bread), as its gluten will easily break down and you risk a crumbly texture. *
Instead of granulated white sugar, I used coconut sugar. It won’t impart any coconut flavor but it gives the bread a nice color. Alternatively, you could also use an unrefined liquid sweetener, like maple syrup or honey, and add it together with the other liquid ingredients. Just keep in mind to reduce the buttermilk amount, in order to keep the ratio of liquid to dry ingredients in balance.
The method of preparing this Irish soda bread reminded me of scone making. (Only that most scones are a little sweeter still and cut into wedges).
After whisking together the dry ingredients, butter is rubbed into the flour mix. Extra dishes to wash are my nemesis, so I just used my fingers. But you could also use a pastry blender, fork, a couple of knives or even a food processor for this step.
Then the raisins are stirred in, and the beaten egg and buttermilk are added. Start with 1 cup of buttermilk and add more only if needed to make a cohesive dough. You really don’t want to over mix the dough. So just stir it with a wooden spoon and then pat into a circular shape.
I baked my bread in a cast iron skillet but any other (lightly greased) baking pan will do, too. It might take a little longer in cast iron.
Another important step with soda bread, is to cut a deep X into the top. Folklore says this is to let the fairies escape. But essentially this just helps distribute heat more evenly into the center.
I loved the fresh slices of bread slathered with a little butter (and sometimes even a sprinkle of cinnamon). Like pretty much all baked goods, this Irish Soda Bread tastes best within the first 2 day of baking.
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly grease a 8 or 9-inch cast iron skillet or cake pan.
- Whisk together spelt flour, coconut sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Rub butter into the flour mix with your fingers. Alternatively you could use a pastry blender, fork, a couple of knives or even a food processor to cut the butter into the flour. Stir in raisins.
- Make a well and add beaten egg and 1 cup buttermilk. Stir with a wooden spoon and slowly add more buttermilk - only as much as needed to form a cohesive dough. Do not over mix. It should be a loose, shaggy dough.
- Turn dough out onto a floured surface and pat/form into a ball shape. Place into prepared pan and cut a deep X into the top.
- Bake bread for 35-45 minutes. Tent with aluminum foil if the top is getting too dark at the end. Test with a toothpick or skewer to ensure bread is baked through.
- Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Bread is best enjoyed within the first 2 days.