Mrs. O’Callaghan’s Soda Bread

Saint Patrick, you braved captivity in Ireland and later returned to spread Christianity throughout the land. Rather than eradicating the native customs and beliefs, you incorporated them into your teachings so that the Christian message was more easily understood by the people; a respectable model for Christian missions today (says the Religious Studies major in me). Today we remember the day of your death by drinking Stout and loading up on carbs. I hope you’re not offended. I hope someday people remember me by eating and drinking!

I love a good Irish soda bread on Saint Patrick’s Day. I adore its crumbly texture, crusty outside, and slightly sweet, brown interior, topped with generous amounts of butter. I eat way too much, and it’s so, so good.

This is the second year we’ve eaten this particular Irish soda bread. Last year my Mom made it as part of a corned beef & cabbage dinner. This year we made it to accompany a bacon-wrapped stout & cheddar meatloaf. It’s from an article in Bon Appetit titled A Slice of Ireland, which includes captivating pictures of Ireland’s stunning, verdant countryside (where apparently there are as many versions of soda bread as there are cooks), and the account of one man’s quest for the perfect one. Mrs. O’Callaghan’s recipe is treasured for its simplicity (no add-ins like nuts or seeds) and authenticity.

The only changes I made were halving the recipe, using teff flour instead of whole wheat flour (we had some leftover from our teff galette), using a food processor to make the dough, and baking the soda bread on parchment paper, instead of spraying a baking sheet with nonstick vegetable oil spray. We hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did!

Mrs. O’Callaghan’s Soda Bread

(Slightly adapted from the March 2010 issue of Bon Appetit)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups teff flour (or whole wheat flour)
1/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 of a stick chilled butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup buttermilk

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. In a food processor, combine both flours, the sugar, and the baking soda. Pulse until combined. Add the butter and continue pulsing until it resembles little peas. Add the buttermilk and pulse until the dough just comes together (or as the original recipe says “shaggy dough forms”).
  • Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface, kneading until it comes together, about 10 turns.
  • Form dough into a 7-inch round that is 1 inch high. Place dough on prepared baking sheet. Cut a large X, 1/2 inch deep, in top of dough, almost all the way to the edges of the round.
  • Bake in the center of the oven until it is deep brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. A bamboo skewer, when placed into the center of the bread, should come out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool, slice, and serve with butter!

(And a special thanks to my Great-Aunt Lois – one of our faithful readers – who made the beautiful potholders in these pictures!)

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