The Goddess, not being of Irish descent, had not yet acquired a taste for Irish soda bread. That is, she didn’t see the point of it, until she tried Anjelica Huston’s version. Apparently, the Huston family lived in Ireland, while Anjelica was a mere slip of a lass and she grew up eating this bread every day with breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is by far the best version I’ve had; it is absolutely delicious served warm, with good butter.This recipe came from a newspaper article I ran across a number of years ago. It isn’t so much Anjelica Huston’s recipe, but that of the family cook, Mrs. Creagh. She must have been a wonder, as this bread is so, so good. It is goes together quickly and though best served fresh out of the oven, it isn’t bad the next morning, toasted, with butter and jam. Or eat it as the Irish do, with some of the good salted butter for which the Irish are renowned, thin slices of smoked salmon, a few capers gingerly sprinkled over and just a quick squeeze of lemon juice. Thank you Mrs. Creagh.
Mrs. Creagh's Irish Soda Bread
- 3 cups whole wheat flour
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 – 1 1/4 cups buttermilk*
- 2 tablespoons shortening or butter, melted
- 1/3 cup rolled oats
Heat the oven to 450°F. Sift dry ingredients together into a large bowl, except for the oats. Combine 1 cup of the buttermilk and the melted shortening in a bowl; stir into dry ingredients, mixing slowly to make a thick dough. Add more of the buttermilk, if needed. Add oats; mix until just combined.
Knead dough briefly on a floured surface; form into a round shape. transfer to a greased baking sheet. Make a cross on the top with the wrong edge of a knife. Bake 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Bake until brown and firm, about 45 minutes.
*If you do not have buttermilk, stir 2 teaspoons cider vinegar into 1 1/4 cups milk. Let stand for 10 minutes, then use as you would buttermilk.
I have halved this with complete success. The initial 10 minutes in a 450°F oven remains the same, but you will reduce the remaining cooking time to ???. I feel this bread benefits from resting, on the cookie sheet (after you’ve formed the loaf) for about 10 minutes before you put the loaf in the oven.
The only real change I’ve made to this recipe is that The Goddess has been known to add 1 tablespoon caraway seeds with the dry ingredients. You can add 1/2 cup currants, if you would like. One I added the caraway, some dried minced onion and minced garlic, poppy seeds and some dill weed. It was good…a sort of “everything” soda bread. It was very good with a smear of cream cheese. This recipe is a really a quick bread, but you do develop the gluten a bit when you knead it, but do not knead this as you would a conventional yeast bread or it won’t raise properly. That’s the main reason I let the bread rest after forming the loaf.
Make a cross on the top with the back of a knife. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why the back of the knife, but that’s what the recipe said and I can’t make a better argument not to, so that’s just what I do.
I also like to sprinkle the top with some coarse salt and serve it with some hearty soup. If I make a sandwich with it, I slice it thinly and usually make an open-faced sandwich or lightly toast it for a double-sided sandwich, but don’t over-stuff it. Sadly, becasue I have the memory capacity of a mite, I didn’t take any pictures of the bread after we cut it. And there isn’t any left for me to photograph now, so you make it and you’ll see just how good it is. Enjoy with your St. Patrick’s day breakfast, or any breakfast when you want a good, earthy bread. Thank you, Mrs. Creagh!