Sunday, March 1, 2009

Irish Bread Recipe for St. Patrick's Day

I have a new recipe for Irish Bread I have tried a couple of times with very positive feedback (people liked it).


Mix dry ingredients:
4 cups flour
1-3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup currants (or more raisins)

Add in remaining ingredients:
4 tablespoons shortening (or butter)
2 eggs
1-1/4 cups buttermilk (see note)
2 teaspoons caraway seeds (optional)

Mix all the dry ingredients together, including the raisins, before adding the butter, eggs, and buttermilk, and knead it a little. Mixture should be thick and moist. Grease round casserole well. Bake at 375 degrees for 50 minutes (or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean).

Frost if desired, although it doesn't need frosting or butter. [I have eaten Irish Bread with green frosting from a bakery - although unusual, it was good. This recipe is sweet, calling for more sugar than most Irish breads, which may be the reason for the many compliments.

The recipe is adapted from "Mr. Nick's Cookbook - a Buffet of World Cultures" compiled by Bob Nickolau, a retired Marblehead (MA) schoolteacher - the result of a world culture social studies research project with over 15 years of celebrating world cultures with food.

This recipe uses buttermilk. If you don't have fresh buttermilk on hand, you can use the packages of dry buttermilk, using 1 envelope plus 2 teaspoons of dry buttermilk (or a total of 10 teaspoons) mixed in with the dry ingredients; then use regular milk where the recipe calls for buttermilk. [Alternatively, if you have neither fresh nor dry buttermilk, you could make sour milk by adding vinegar to milk in the proportions 2 tablespoons to 1 cup ; this is used in other Irish Bread recipes, but I cannot guarantee the same results as with buttermilk.]

The recipe calls for shortening, but I prefer to use butter. I'm not crazy about caraway seeds so I don't use them. I haven't had the currants on hand so I simply added more raisins - I prefer the golden raisins over the dark ones. Although it is traditional to cut the butter into the flour mixture, I melt the butter in the microwave, as it seems easier to blend the melted butter in with the dry ingredients.

I have baked this in a large round Pyrex-type (glass) baking dish with good results. It rises very high. I may try making two smaller loaves instead of one large loaf so it will bake faster or more evenly. And the thought occurred to me as well, because of the nice crispy crust, to see how these would come out if I dropped the batter in cookies sizes on a baking sheet; I really do think they'd make terrific little Irish Bread Cookies. [Follow-up note: I tried baking this Irish Bread as a rounded loaf - actually more oblong - on a baking sheet, but I think the baking sheet material was too thin (or I just plain cooked it too long, and it burned the bottom slightly.]

Happy St. Patrick's Day!