Value-Added Irish-American Soda Bread—a Delicious Assimilation

This recipe for Orange Coast Senior Editor Chris Christensen’s Irish-American soda bread, redolent of orange and caraway, would be the perfect accompaniment to my Irish stew from earlier this week  in Taste of Orange County. Now WHAT were the chances of these two recipes appearing in sequence, right before St. Patrick’s Day? I’d say the chances were fully as good as the resulting menu matchup.


Chris’ Irish-American Soda Bread

My soda bread has evolved from the ‘70s until it’s barely recognizable from those first loaves. Earlier attempts were the most “authentic,” but authenticity doesn’t mean much if it doesn’t taste good. So I added a little sugar, then a little more butter, then buttermilk instead of plain milk. At one point I thought golden raisins might be a good idea. And how about orange zest? Then I discovered a recipe that called for caraway seeds, so I added those, too. With every incarnation, I couldn’t bear to sacrifice one addition for the other. So now, it’s all in there. And guess what? I’m now a soda bread nut. Did I say nut? Hmmmmm.

When it exits the oven, this small, fragrant round looks like a giant golden-brown scone. It’s richer, sweeter, and more cake-like Bthanauthentic Irish soda bread, but boy does it taste good. Just break it into chunks and eat it warm, with butter. Or with nothing at all.―Chris Christensen

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

2 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup golden raisins

1 tablespoon caraway seeds (see note)

1 egg

Zest from one large orange

2/3 cup buttermilk

4 tablespoons warm, melted unsalted butter (1/2 stick)

Position rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a large baking sheet.

In a large bowl, thoroughly whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in raisins and caraway seeds. In another bowl, whisk together egg, orange zest, buttermilk, and melted butter. Add mixture to flour mixture and stir just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Batter will be stiff but sticky.

Scrape batter onto baking sheet in a mound 6 to 7 inches in diameter. Use a sharp, floured knife to slash a large X about 1/2–inch deep on top of  batter. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool before serving.

Note: To release more flavor from the caraway, smash the seeds briefly with a mortar and pestle before adding to the flour.

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