NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

March 13, 2013

Creative takes on Irish soda bread

This classic Irish quick bread — no rising time needed — lends itself to numerous creative variations. Traditional recipes often call for nothing but flour, salt, baking soda and buttermilk or yogurt. Currants are a common addition, but that’s just the start. Any number of seeds, nuts, chopped dried fruit and even chocolate can be added.

For our take on soda bread, we decided to have a little of everything. We started with a rich take on the classic recipe, studding it with currants and caraway seeds. But then we also show you how to swap those out to make an oatmeal-rye version with walnuts and fresh thyme and chives. And for a sweet finish, we created a chocolate variation, adding a generous 1/2 cup of cocoa powder, dried cherries and dark chocolate.

To create your own variations, start with the basic recipe and leave out the caraway seeds and currants. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of seasonings and about 1 cup of dried fruit, nuts or seeds.

IRISH SODA BREAD THREE WAYS

Start to finish: 1 hour (20 minutes active)

Servings: 12 (per variety)

4 cups white pastry flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup dried currants, plumped in hot water

1 egg

1 2/3 cups buttermilk or plain regular yogurt (not Greek style)

Heat the oven to 400 F. Coat a loaf pan or a 9-by-9-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and caraway seeds, if using. While stirring, mix in the melted butter until small lumps form and the butter has been evenly distributed. Gently stir in the currants.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and buttermilk. All at once, pour the egg-buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture. Stir gently but thoroughly, just until the flour mixture is moistened. Do not over-mix the dough or the bread will be tough.

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