I recently came across this re-creation of a 19th century recipe for Irish Soda Bread on my favorite food website and of course I had to try it. As a brown bread lover, I usually use coarse whole wheat flour for this type of bread but curiosity, combined with not having any around compelled me to try it with all-purpose. The result was fantastic. The crust was nice and crisp, not what you would suspect from a quick bread. Like brown bread, this was substantial, the kind of bread you could eat with a soup or stew and call a meal. Yes, the crust loses its crunch after being stored for a day or so, but a toaster solves that problem. I ate a few slices of this bread fresh out of the oven slathered with butter and sprinkled with sea salt. For the next day or two, I ate it toasted for breakfast.
As you can tell from the recipe this bread is the definition of quick. My oven barely had time to preheat before I had my shaped loaf all set up in my dutch oven and ready to go. And isn’t it pretty? I still love my soda bread brown but I can tell I will be making this again.
What I loved even more than the recipe was all of the banter in the numerous comments to the accompanying article entitled “Irish Soda Bread, as it was Meant to Be” regarding the authenticity of using white flour for this type of bread instead of the coarse whole wheat flour which would produce what we call "brown bread". While there seemed to be little controversy over the fact that most soda bread in Ireland doesn’t contain sugar or dried fruit, the use of all-purpose flour in this recipe seemed to create quite a stir. The issue of whether or not white flour was more popular than whole wheat in the mid-1800’s and to whom it was available is discussed at length in the comments. A few of the folks commenting seem to have significant knowledge on the topic of Irish food history. If you are a food and history nerd like me, you might enjoy it.
Aside from eating soda bread, we were celebrating our Irish heritage last weekend at the Irish American Heritage Center's summer festival in Mayfair. We decked the kids out in their Irish soccer uniforms (courtesy of our cousins) and enjoyed some food, music and Irish dancing. Isla was particularly captivated by the Irish dancers. Who knows? We may have a budding Irish dancer in that one. If you have never been to the Irish American Heritage Center, you really should check it out. They have a pub that is open most nights, a gift shop, event spaces, performances, a library, Irish dance classes and more. I highly recommend a visit.