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Irish Soda Bread–Spotted Dog

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It’s not often that I make things for St. Patrick’s Day. It never crosses my mind to make green colored frosted cakes or green drinks. I do like to see the creations going around the web for this festive holiday. 

I found several American Irish soda bread recipes I couldn’t wait to try. The most recent I came across this week in the New York Time’s. It was more like a dessert bread than a hearty and grainy bread I’d expect to find if I were lucky enough to end up one day in Ireland. 

My mom is a thrifting expert. She sometimes comes across gems like old issues of Gourmet magazine. Oh, I sure miss that incredible magazine. She just picked up a Gourmet from 1994 last week.
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One of the articles in the magazine is by Jeanne Lemlin. Jeanne wrote about Irish soda breads after a trip she made there with her family. Jeanne writes, “In my quest to discover what accounts for the deep, abiding flavor of soda bread, I spoke to a number of people in towns along the country’s southwestern coast and, extending my search to the professional level, the bakers at Field’s supermarket (where my favorite bread is made). 

She goes on to describe observing the Irish bakers: “As the six women worked, silently and swiftly measuring, mixing, kneading, and shaping, McSweeney (the bakery’s manager), explained, ‘You must use a coarsely ground low-gluten flour.’ “

Jeanne describes touching the dough, “I had always assumed that when you bake a free-standing, circular loaf, your dough has to e fairly stiff. And, although these bakers don’t knead the dough as assiduously as one would when preparing yeast bread, they do handle these masses quite vigorously.” Jeanne shares four recipes from around Ireland. I feel confident in saying this is an authentic Irish soda bread. Of the four recipes in the article, Jeanne explains, “ ‘Brown bread’, the most common sort of soda bread,  is a dark loaf made with whole-meal flour; it was this version that I found most irresistible. I may share that recipe one day soon. 
I’m not sure it will be my kid’s favorite but I can see myself enjoying it with some Kerrygold butter and a slather of homemade jam. 
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I had to read a little about the origins of Irish Soda Bread. I found out there is even a Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread. The author of the article explains, “the Irish have made Soda Bread theirs.  Not by choice, but by a state of poverty that made it the easiest bread to put on the table.” 

It was very interesting to read that in the journal Chemistry and Chemical Analysis by the Ireland Commissioners of National Education published in 1861 in Dublin the following appeared on page 319:
Although it is very desirable that bread should be light, it is not always possible to obtain yeast: - hence, what is called "soda bread" has been of late, very much used.  Its lightness is due to carbonic acid, disengaged from bicarbonate of soda.  The latter is mixed with the flour, and is decomposed by an acid -- sometimes, by that contained in sour milk, but more conveniently by dilute hydrochloric acid.  This kind of bread, has not the advantage of its constituents being even slightly broken up, by incipient fermentation; nevertheless, it is said to have properties, which render it at least as wholesome as that which is made with yeast.

The author of the site includes this list of what does not constitute a traditional Irish Soda Bread:

“A few absolutes:  Traditional Irish Soda Bread does not contain
  • "zest", orange or any other kind
  • Irish Whiskey.  (talk about stereotyping!!!)
  • Honey (substitute for sugar)
  • Sugar (see definition of "cake")
  • eggs (see definition of "cake")
  • Garlic  (not common in English/Irish dishes)
  • Shortening (hydrogenated vegetable oil - Crisco introduced to the US in 1911.  Not in the 19th century)
  • Double Cream (British term for "Heavy Cream" but a little thicker.  Not much chance irish peasants would be using this.)
  • Sour Cream (traditional in Eastern European dishes.  Became popular in the US and European kitchens during the past 50 years, not 150 years ago. see http://www.ochef.com/516.htm
  • Yogurt (prior to 1900 a staple in Central Europe and Asia.  Introduced to the US after WWII by Isaac Carasso who started Dannon in NY City.  Not a 19th century Irish baking item.)
  • Chocolate
  • Chiles/Jalapenos (Right! Ireland is well known for using these in its traditional food!! por favor!
  • Fruit (Only in Christmas/Easter cakes and other special occasions._
And just about anything else one can think of.  All of the above ingredients can be found in "Irish soda bread" recipes somewhere on the web.  Interesting, but definitely not Traditional Irish Soda Bread.”

You can go over to the site to find out more! And visit their updated site for the latest Irish Soda Bread info.
Do you have stories about Irish Soda Bread? Share them in the comment section…I’d love to hear them!
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If you are a novice bread baker, you must try this recipe. It is put together in a flash. There is no worry about letting it rise and how to shape it. It’s a rustic bread with a wonderful crumb. I’ve baked it already a few times. Each time the slashes I made turned out to bake into a different pattern. This last time it ended up looking almost like a starfish. Jeanne explains, “The golden raisins in the bread impart a tangy flavor. This recipe (which comes from County Cork)is at its best when allowed to sit for a few hours before slicing.” I can tell you that I would’ve had to have baked this bread without any one at home to let it sit for a few hours before slicing. I had a crowd of family members around me waiting for the first slice. It was loud and chaotic. There was Kerrygold cheese and there was some butter and there were plenty of happy customers. Whatever happens to be leftover is wonderful heated up the next day to enjoy for breakfast with coffee. 

The basic soda bread is made with flour, baking soda, salt, and soured milk (or buttermilk).  So the bread I’m sharing that is called Irish Soda Bread in Gourmet 1994 is actually a Spotted Dog because of the addition of raisins. 

Irish Soda Bread-Spotted Dog

Ingredients

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus additional for sprinkling
1/4 cup wheat bran (not bran cereal)or toasted wheat germ
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1 cup golden raisins (I also used some currants)
1 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt (I used a cup of milk with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to make my own buttermilk)

Directions: 
Preheat oven to 400 F and sprinkle a baking sheet lightly with flour (or line a sheet with parchment paper).
In a large bowl whisk together flour, bran, baking soda, and salt. Add butter and toss to coat with flour. With fingertips rub in butter until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add raisins and toss until coated. Add buttermilk and stir until dough is moistened evenly.

On a floured surface knead dough one minute, sprinkling lightly with additional flour to prevent sticking (dough should remain soft). Shape dough into a ball.

On a prepared baking sheet pad dough out into a 6-inch round. Sprinkle round with additional flour and with fingertips spread lightly over round. With a sharp knife cut a shallow X on top of round.

Bake bread in middle of oven 35-45 minutes, or until golden brown. Wrap bread in a kitchen towel  and cool on a rack one hour. Unwrap bread and cool one more hour.

Happy Baking! xo Lora

To all my friends that celebrate, I wish you a very Happy St. Patrick’s Day!






33 comments

  1. I would looooove to sink my teeth into that lovely loaf! YUM! Looks gorgeous!!

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  2. I WANT this right now!!! Absolutely lovely, Lora!

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  3. What a beautiful soda bread, and such an informative post, too ;)

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  4. Tiene una pinta estupenda! Tengo muchas ganas de preparar este pan, anotada queda la receta! Un abrazo y estoy encantada de conocer tu blog!

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  5. That's one gorgeous soda bread, Lora.

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  6. that's a beautiful loaf, lora! i would enjoy it too with lots of butter!

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  7. I too have magazines from the 90´s and also the 80´s. That´s a lot of info about soda bread. I don´t think I ever read much about it, only know that it´s easy and so good. Your spotted dog look amazing Lora!

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  8. Lora, this bread is absolutely Beautiful! Thanks for the info. too - I didn't realize that the "soda" in soda bread, is a yeast substitute. Maybe this is a bread recipe that even I could pull off! :)

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  9. Your bread looks so tasty, Lora! I wish I had a wedge right now :).

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  10. I have been to Ireland a number of times and the standard soda bread served in restaurants is definitely more of a simple (delicious) whole grain loaf. I usually make one like that and spotted dick.
    I just found The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread site the other day, too! I made a spotted dick recipe I saw there with sour cream in it. I actually used white whole wheat flour and added dried cranberries and the zest of 2 oranges; not traditional, but so good! I'm going to try it again today but use whole milk yogurt in place of the sour cream.

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  11. Perfect soda bread, Lora! It looks exactly like the magazine cover!!

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  12. Oh, how I miss Gourmet Magazine! This soda bread looks fantastic.

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  13. Gorgeous bread. I love old food magazines and cookbooks too.

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  14. I'll take some with butter, looks so delicious!

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  15. No matter how much I try..I can't get into Irish Soda bread..it always seems to dry and crumbly. I'm betting I've just had bad samples because yours looks delightful! Just hold the raisins ;D. BTW..I think chilis and/or citrus zest would be wonderful in it..traditional or not!

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  16. Look at that loaf. It looks marvelous! Hope you had a nice St. Paddy's Day ;-)

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  17. I have never made Irish soda bread before, but each time I see it...I wish I had a loaf on my table. Maybe next year? Or who needs a holiday to make something like this? Thank you for sharing Lora. The old magazine makes the recipe even more special.

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  18. I'm jealous of your magazine. I keep my eye out for any old Gourmet's too and snatch the up when I see them. I, too, mourn the loss.

    The bread looks fantastic, Lora. Of course, your food always does.

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  19. One of the most informative posts on Irish Soda Bread I've ever read. I do love the *starfish* pattern that turned out on this spotted dog of yours and your photographs are simply wonderful.

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  20. I've never made or eaten Irish soda bread and I need to find out what I've been missing! I mean, hello, bread I don't have to wait six hours (or more) to eat? I need this in my life! This look gorgeous, Lora - so rustic and homey. It'd be perfect slathered with butter. Damnit, I just started drooling.

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  21. It looks wonderful Lora, and yes the slash looks like a starfish! I love making this bread, so I'll save your recipe to try it soon.

    Hugs

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  22. This is wicked gorgeous bread lady. I just want to snatch a piece off the edge.

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  23. Not only because Irish breads are among my favorites but this has got to be one of the prettiest I've seen. I love the pictures, too. Oh, to be able to reach into my screen to take a piece...

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  24. This looks tasty! and I love the vintage magazine. Those are always the best :)

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  25. Lora,
    The pictures look lovely. I am not Irish, so I have to say that I prefer the more Americanized versions with sugar in the bread. I have a couple I posted last year. If you get the chance have a look, http://bakewelljunction.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/irish-soda-bread-1/ and http://bakewelljunction.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/irish-soda-bread-2/

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  26. Great post.
    List of ingredients that shouldn't be present in a real Irish Soda bread is more than useful. That makes your post amazing.
    Then, Gourmet issue is a real treasure. I miss a lot Gourmet.
    Now it's my time to recover. This year for the first time I realize it was St. Patrick’s Day the next day. This recipe is a right way to live St. Patrick’s Day any day I'll have time.

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  27. Oh my gosh. It came out beautifully! I've never tried an American version although the version I tried used an egg so I guess it's by definition not Irish. But you know, a sweetened one! Sugar just makes everything tastier. ;)

    You did a great job with this loaf! So very pretty.

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  28. I usually make Irish soda bread just around St Patrick's day and then I forget about it till next year.
    Thanks for doing all the research and sharing with us

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  29. Gorgeous soda bread Lora!!! I love baking this type of bread-so easy, delicious and rewarding ;-) Please pass the butter and jam;-)
    I think a little sugar in this bread is just perfect for my taste!

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  30. I am a novice baker, so this bread might just be a perfect beginner's recipe for me! Seems simple, but the result is a hearty bread!

    And yes, I miss Gourmet magazine as well. That copy is going to be a classic, if not already.

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  31. This bread looks fabulous. I'm imagining it along side a nice salad or bowl of soup. YUM!

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  32. Cook's Illustrated has a nice white soda bread recipe - http://jenniferhoel.wordpress.com/2008/03/18/mmmsoda-bread/

    It's delicious with rich Irish butter.

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