I've only learned of the true joy of Irish Soda bread in recent years. That fact is entirely due to Mr. SoCal and his deep Irish roots. Last year, before SoCal Sustenance existed, I embarked on a quest to make a great St. Patricks Day feast for us. I had to call in the big guns and get this recipe from his dad, and it was well worth it. It was a bread making adventure unlike any I've had before, complete with the stickiest dough known to all mankind and a near disastrous chemical reaction that would have made Mr. Wizard proud. The corned beef was salty and the soda bread was good, but it was nothing compared to what I tasted this year.
Breadmaking has been a St. Patricks Day tradition for Mr. SoCal and his dad for years, often making dozens of loaves over the course of a week to give to family, friends and colleagues. This year I got to watch the magic first hand, as the first six loaves have already been cranked out. I love knowing that there is history and tradition in this bread, that this is the same recipe and technique that his great grandmother made while back in County Kerry. It is truly a labor of love and persistence, and I'm happy to be able to pass on the tradition to you.
Wee Little Irish Soda Bread
(makes two wee little loaves)
1 1/3 cups 2% milk
4 Tbsp white vinegar
5 cups King Arthur all purpose flour
2 sticks margarine
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease two small 2 quart cast iron pans or dutch ovens with butter or margarine.
In a large bowl, combine vinegar, milk and egg. Mix to ensure yolk is broken, and set aside to allow the milk to sour.
In a large mixing bowl, sift together 4 cups of flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Cut in the margarine until the mixture is like cornmeal or damp sand. Add the raisins until they are completely covered with flour.
Add the baking soda to the bowl containing the milk and eggs. Stir gently and allow mixture to react for a minute or two. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and add wet ingredients.
Work the mixture thoroughly until a dough is formed. If dough is sticking to your hands, add 1/4 cup of flour and continue kneading. Repeat until dough is no longer sticky and can be formed into a ball.
Divide dough into two portions. Cut a cross in the top of each loaf to minimize cracking. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the bottom has a firm brown crust and makes a solid sound when you tap on it. Cool on a baking rack and enjoy.
This recipe comes from the Boston Cook Book, but more recently has been published in the Pasadena Rugby Cookbook. This was compiled two years ago and includes favorite recipes from players and coaches, including clever writing and commentary on rugby. They are available for $5 plus shipping, if interested please comment below.