Posts Tagged ‘Irish Soda Bread’

Cast-Iron Inspiration

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

cast iron

A friend recently decided to outfit a new kitchen and asked for my advice. She was getting ready to purchase a high-end set of cookware, she informed me, and wanted to know what brand I recommended.

I dismayed her by telling her that I wouldn’t recommend purchasing one full set of ANYTHING. Instead, I thought (and still think) that a kitchen needs a little bit of a lot of types of cookware.

I like my stainless-steel saucepans. I like to have both a nonstick and a regular frying pan. I like a huge pot for stocks and soups. And I believe that every kitchen needs a bit of cast-iron.

In my case, that cast-iron consists of one enameled Dutch oven in a convenient size (about 5 quarts; larger is hard to lift!) and black cast-iron skillets of varying sizes.

Most of my skillets came from relatives or tag sales, although I do have one new one, from Lodge Manufacturing Company.

I use my skillets for a variety of tasks—most commonly for toasting nuts or for baking cornbread, frittatas, or upside-down cake.

Reading Dominique DeVito’s brand-new Cast-Iron Skillet Cookbook, which publisher Cider Mill Press sent me for review, has given me a number of additional ideas for cast-iron cookery.

In addition to my favorites, DeVito provides cast-iron-friendly recipes for unexpected dishes: casseroles; coffee cakes; vegetable roasts; and a variety of breads, from dinner rolls to Indian naan.

I have to admit it would NEVER have occurred to me to try preparing General Tso’s Chicken in my cast-iron pans—or to bake a giant chocolate-chip cookie.

Most helpful of all, DeVito provides hints on caring for cast iron. I knew one wasn’t supposed to wash these pans with soap. It turns out that I have been seasoning my pans incorrectly all these years, however!

If you’d like new ideas for your old pans, or if you are thinking of adding a cast-iron pan to your cookware collection, leave a comment below. The comment can describe your own favorite use of cast iron—or anything else you would like to express.

Cider Mill Press has generously promised to send a copy of the cookbook to one of the commenters. Please comment by next Tuesday, March 24. The next morning I will select one comment (randomly, I promise!) and get in touch with the winner to get his or her mailing address.

Meanwhile, I leave you with a recipe from the cookbook suitable for this week. I have already made my own favorite soda bread, but I’m seriously considering trying this savory take on a Saint Patrick’s Day favorite as well.

Let me know if you make it—and don’t forget to sing a few sentimental Irish (or Irish-American) songs today. My solo for our local Saint Patrick’s Day concert will be George M. Cohan’s “Mary.”

And the whole assembled group will sing “An Irish Blessing.”


Cheesy Chive Soda Bread

   Courtesy of The Cast-Iron Skillet Cookbook


3 cups white flour
2 cups spelt flour
3/4 cup rolled oats (not instant)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
2-1/2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped chives
1-1/4 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese
freshly ground pepper


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the flours, oats, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Whisk to combine thoroughly. In another bowl, combine the butter, buttermilk, and egg.

Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture, and stir vigorously to blend. Dough will be sticky. Stir in the chives and 1 cup of the grated cheese.

Liberally grease a 12-inch cast-iron skillet with butter. Scoop and spread the dough into the skillet. Grate pepper over the top; then sprinkle the remaining cheese over it. Using a sharp knife, make an “x” in the center, about 1/2-inch deep, to settle the cheese further into the dough as it cooks.

Bake in the oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes until the bread is golden on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to sit in the skillet for a few minutes before serving.

Makes 1 loaf.

A Saint Patrick's Day image from the past: my mother kneading soda bread

A Saint Patrick’s Day image from the past: my mother kneading soda bread

Surprise Soda Bread

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011
I love Saint Patrick’s Day.
As I noted a couple of years ago on this blog in a discussion of my unsainted great-grandmother, I’m only marginally Irish. Nevertheless, I’ve always embraced this holiday.
It’s cheerful at a time when the landscape in my beloved New England is gloomy.
It’s associated with any number of popular Irish and Irish-American songs.
Some are humorous, such as “Who Threw the Overalls in Mistress Murphy’s Chowder” and “Harrigan.” Only George M. Cohan could have constructed the interior rhymes in the latter.
Others are sentimental to the point of being maudlin. Since a lot of beer is drunk on this holiday no one objects.
I fully expect to evoke tears from the audience when I pay musical tribute to “me mither” during my little solo at our local Saint Patrick’s Day concert. (I’ll be singing “An Irish Lullaby.”)
I also love Saint Patrick’s Day because I look fabulous in green.
And because I love, love, love soda bread.
I’ve already posted recipes for white and whole-wheat soda bread. This year I’m using a recipe cribbed (with thanks!) from Cabot Cheese.
As soon as I saw Cabot’s Cheddar Soda Bread I knew it would be just the thing to serve with corned beef and cabbage or Irish beef or lamb stew. 

I have changed the recipe a little, of course.

First, I upped the Irish ante by using Irish cheddar—laced with porter. The marbled cheese gave the bread a gorgeous mottled look. The original cheddar might taste sharper, but this version still had lots of cheesiness. I can’t wait to try this cheese in my Irish cheese fondue.
Second, I switched Cabot’s salted butter to unsalted (there’s plenty of sodium in this recipe without more in the butter—and I say this as a girl who loves her salt) and used Kerrygold Irish butter.
Third, I threw in some caraway seeds. They are often used in soda bread. I find them a little strong in sweet breads, but they complement this savory recipe beautifully.
Enjoy—but eat sparingly. This bread is very filling. 

And if you’re in Alexandria, Virginia, Thursday night, come sing along with me and the Montebello Singers….

Surprise Soda Bread
2-1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/4 cup (1/4 of a 1/2-pound package) Irish butter
1/2 pound Irish cheddar with porter (or stout!), grated
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet or line it with a silicone mat.
In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and caraway seeds. Stir in the cheese and blend well.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk and the egg. Stir them gently into the dry ingredients.
Turn the mixture onto a lightly floured board and knead it a few times, until it holds together into a slightly flattened ball.
Pop your ball onto the prepared cookie sheet. You may cut a cross in the center, but my cutting wasn’t very successful so I would leave well enough alone.
Bake until the loaf has light brown spots and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean—35 to 40 minute or so.
Slice into small wedges (12 to 14). 

Makes 1 loaf.

Did I mention that I like to wear green?

Blarney Scones

Monday, March 15th, 2010

sodabread web

I can’t imagine Saint Patrick’s Day without Irish soda bread. I start baking it around March 1—about the same time the lit-up shamrock goes up on the side of the house–so my family can get into the holiday spirit at breakfast each day.
This year we’re eating a slightly healthier version than my usual soda bread, the recipe for which I published last year.
I have always made soda bread with white flour, but my neighbor Mary Stuart Cosby urged me to try a brown version, and now I’m hooked. She suggested this recipe, which is adapted from King Arthur Flour.
KAF suggests using its Irish-style wholemeal flour, a coarsely ground flour that sounds a bit like old-fashioned American Graham flour. I don’t have any (next year I’ll order some in advance!) so I’ve been using KAF’s white whole-wheat flour. The whole-wheat flour gives the bread a lovely nutty flavor.
Of course, the bread would be even healthier if we could resist slathering Kerrygold butter all over it! So far we haven’t been able to make ourselves pursue health to that degree, however.
By the way, I must admit that I didn’t make up the name “Blarney Scone.” That honor goes to one of my favorite grocery stores, Trader Joe’s, which is selling small rounds of soda bread under that name this month.
Brown Soda Bread
2-1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1-1/4 cups bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) sweet butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup raisins (Mary Stuart suggested cutting them in half to distribute them better; I got lazy and didn’t do this, but I think it’s a good idea)
1-1/3 cups buttermilk
1 egg
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
In a bowl combine the flours, the sugar, the baking soda, and the salt. Cut in the butter; then stir in the raisins.
In a separate bowl or measuring cup whisk together the buttermilk and the egg. Stir this mixture into the flour just until combined.
Divide the dough into two clumps (they will be a little sticky) and knead each one briefly on a lightly floured board until they hold together as balls. Place them on the prepared sheet.
Break the bread for 15 minutes; then reduce the heat to 375 and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until it is golden brown. Makes 2 small loaves.



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Irish Cottage Soda Bread

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009


I can’t imagine celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day without a little soda bread, so called because it gets its leavening from baking soda rather than yeast. This is my favorite recipe to date for this treat. It comes from a now defunct store in Summit, New Jersey, called the Irish Cottage. Every year the store had a soda-bread contest, and this was one of the staff’s favorite winning recipes.


If you don’t have a way to use a quart of buttermilk, you may buy buttermilk powder in the baking section of large grocery stores. Add the required amount to the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder, and use water when the recipe calls for the buttermilk. 


The Bread




4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold butter, cut into six pieces
1 cup dried cranberries (you may substitute raisins or currants if you like)
1 egg
1-1/3 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda

green sprinkles (optional)


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a large cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicone mat.


In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. With two knives or a pastry cutter cut in the butter. When you are finished there should be only tiny bits of butter left. Add the cranberries.


In  separate bowl (or a 2-cup measuring cup) mix the egg, buttermilk, and baking soda. Combine them with the flour mixture, stirring just until the dry ingredients become moistened. Form the dough into a ball.


On a lightly floured wooden board knead the dough for 3 to 5 minutes. Form the bread into two mounds, place them on the prepared cookie sheet, and gently make a cross on the center of each mound with a serrated knife. Add a few sprinkles if you like. Bake the mounds until they are golden brown in spots, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Makes 2 small loaves. 

Jan and I wish you a happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Jan and I wish you a happy Saint Patrick's Day!