When daffodils and forsythia brighten the gray February days and March is in sight, my mind turns to Irish Soda Bread.
My mother used to buy Boston brown bread in a can and serve it with cream cheese on top, but I prefer the Irish Soda Bread from The Grand Central Baking Book by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson (2009). If we ever make it to the Pacific Northwest, we will visit one of the Grand Central bakeries. Meanwhile, here is their recipe for Irish Soda Bread.
4 cups (1 pound, 4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (2.25 ounces) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest
3/4 cup (3.5 ounces) currants
3/4 cup (6 ounces, or 1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (9 fluid ounces) buttermilk
Egg Wash – 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Measure flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl with high sides or the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk to combine. Stir in the caraway seeds, orange zest, and currants.
Dice the butter into 1/2-inch cubes. Use your hands or the stand mixer to blend the butter into the dry ingredients until the texture becomes mealy.
Add 3/4 cup of the buttermilk all at once, mixing just until the dough comes together, 30 to 35 seconds. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl to incorporate any dry ingredients, then stir in enough buttermilk to bring the dough together. You may have buttermilk left over.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 2 chunks. Gently shape the chunks into domed disks and score each one into quarters. Place each quarter onto the parchment paper in the sheet pan and brush liberally with the egg wash.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. The soda bread should be shiny and golden brown. To serve, cut or pull the disks apart where they were scored.