I never thought that having an Irish boyfriend would make St. Patrick’s Day hard, but he’s surprisingly choosy on this holiday. For example, this year I made Half and Half cupcakes, named after the drink more commonly known in the States as a Black and Tan. They were a moist creation of chocolate stout cake layered with yellow ale cake, and topped with vanilla malt buttercream frosting. But then he casually informed me that Half and Halfs aren’t really Irish. What?! Okay, everyone knows corned beef and cabbage isn’t really an Irish tradition (and yet we still eat it), but to find out that a drink of Guinness stout layered with Smithwicks ale isn’t traditionally Irish? You could have knocked me over with a feather.
Let the record show that it didn’t keep him from eating the cupcakes.
So, fine. Soda bread it is. I’m secretly positive this is what he was angling for me to make anyway, because it’s perfectly yummy on its own as a snack with a glass of milk, or lightly toasted for breakfast, topped with creamy Irish butter and served with a strong cup of Barry’s tea. It’s also a grand accompaniment to tender, slow-roasted corned beef.
Irish Soda Bread
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated
3 cups (15 oz) all-purpose flour
1 cup (4 oz)cake flour
1 and 1/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup sugar
1 and 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 and 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 and 1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees, and adjust the rack to the middle-top spot. Prepare a baking sheet with a light coat of oil, or parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Use your fingers to quickly rub the chilled butter into the flour mixture, until there are no more large pieces of butter and the flour is the texture of coarse crumbs.
- In a small bowl, combine the egg and buttermilk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and combine with a fork until it just starts to form a dough.
- Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly until it comes together more fully, about 15 turns. It might still look lumpy, but that’s okay. Pat the dough into a round loaf about 2 inches high and cut a cross into the top (don’t go too deep, maybe 1/2 an inch or so).
- Place the loaf on your prepared pan and bake for about 45 minutes. Cover the loaf with foil if it starts to get too brown (I was a little late doing that this time. That just means you get to learn from my mistake).
- When the loaf has finished, brush it all over with the melted butter and allow it to cool for 30 minutes or so before slicing.