Kiss me, I’m Irish. Just kidding: don’t kiss me, k? I don’t like being touched by strangers. Sorry. It’s not you. It’s me. Really.
I’m Irish. At least part. Mostly the skin adverse to sunlight part. And as a part Irish gal who really knows nothing of her heritage but will totally drink all the Irish coffee on St. Patrick’s Day, I feel that I have to admit something: I have been making soda bread wrong. FOR YEARS. I know. I can practically hear Septa Unella ringing her bell (shame! Shame! SHAME!).
In my defence, it really was Ina’s fault. You see, Ina and I go way back, I’m talking all the way to 2002 when I was gifted her first cookbook. If you’ve never heard of Ina Garten, then a) I’m so very sad for you because she’s awesome! and b) we can’t be friends anymore. I could probably dedicate posts and posts and POSTS to the things I’ve learned from Ina, but that would be weird and creepy, which is totally
up my alley unlike me. But, it was her recipe for Irish Soda Bread that I have been using for, well, forever. And, seriously, it’s delicious (minus the raisins, of course, because that’d just be crazy). It’s my go-to stew/soup/rainy day blues accompaniment and I probably make it at least 10 times a year.
So, when I was whipping up some lovely Guinness Beef Stew on the weekend, I naturally planned to bake up a loaf of Ina’s Irish Soda Bread. But then, as I was chopping some onions, I had one of those weird thoughts, like you can’t believe you’ve never thought it before and then feel totally dumb that you hadn’t: How did the Irish even have sugar and butter and raisins available to them during the Potato Famine? I know what you’re thinking, yes, sometimes I’m that clueless.
Traditional Irish Soda Bread vs. deliciously sweet imitators
I threw my apron down and dashed from the kitchen to find the nearest electronic device (okay, in truth, I don’t actually ever wear an apron, but I wanted you to feel my passionate desire to find out the truth on soda bread). I consulted my good friend Google and found a really cool website: The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread. Yup, there’s actually a whole website dedicated to saving old soda bread recipes. You should go check it out. And here’s what I learned: true soda bread has just four ingredients. Anything else makes it a tea cake. This most likely explains why Ina’s soda bread was like eating dessert, because, well, technically it is!
So, I decided to throw caution to the wind and go old school soda bread. And boy, was I impressed! It still puffed up and, according to a general consensus of the peeps that eat soda bread with me on the regular, tasted just as good (it might’ve helped that each piece was slathered with some yummy honey butter, but still, totes delicious!).
The game changer
I’ve always baked the bread on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. That is, until now. I’m totally obsessed with my cast iron pots and skillets and am always looking for ways to use them (aside from camping and everyday boring things like panfrying and sautéing). I got to thinking: in the olden days the bread would’ve been had baked in a pot over a fire. Now, I didn’t have a fire handy, but I did have an oven, and I was pretty sure that my big ole’ cast iron pot with its super heavy lid was up for the challenge. And sure enough, the recipe called for you to put a lid over the bread for part of the baking time (I know, great minds, amiright?!?). By encasing the bread in a pot, you are trapping in all that hot moist goodness (how many uncomfortable words can I type at once?!?) which allows for a dense, finished product. So, in my home oven I recreated a modern day bastible pot (the Irish housewife’s indispensable kitchen tool), and set about baking the perfect Irish Soda Bread for my peeps.
The result: A perfectly perfect Irish Soda Bread
Funnily enough, I wasn’t even going to post about this, but sometimes, when you have those magical moments of foodie bliss, you just have to share! When I opened the lid of the pot, I was in gluten-laden heaven. I mean, come on, look at that crust!! So proud to be part Irish right now (let’s cheers with some Irish coffee, obviously).