The first time I had Irish soda bread was 11 years ago in Mott Children’s Hospital on a dreary Saturday morning in March. I’d been up all night with really sick kids, completely over my head, begging the morning to come while subsisting on hospital-issue saltines, peanut butter and coffee. The morning came, and so did our attending physician, a wonderful pediatric rheumatologist with a basket full of hot bread, triple citrus marmalade and orange juice. She was like a personification of Mrs. Beaver from C.S. Lewis and her bread was pretty much heaven.
It wasn’t until many years later, as I was working through my Martha Stewart Baking Handbook, that I made the soda bread only to realize it was that same heavenly bread from Dr. Adams.
Irish soda bread is a quick bread, and comes together in a similar fashion to scones. This version is a touch sweet with the addition of golden raisins, I think it’s technically called “Spotted Dog”. Regardless of technicalities, it goes well with marmalade and tea. Gray Michigan March is optional.
Irish Soda Bread
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold dairy-free margarine or shortening
3/4 cup golden raisins, covered with boiling water
1 cup soy milk + 1 teaspoon cider vinegar, set aside to thicken
1.) Preheat oven to 375 and get some boiling water on the raisins.
2.) Pulse the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor to blend and pulse in the margarine until mixed well. Dump into a large mixing bowl. If doing by hand, whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and cut the margarine in with a pastry blended until well mixed.
3.) Drain the raisins in a strainer and press all the water out with the back of a spoon. Stir the raising into the dry mixture.
4.) Pour the thickened soy milk into the dry ingredients and blend carefully. Don’t overmix this.
6.) Dump the dough on to a parchment-lined baking sheet, shape into a mound and slash an ‘X’ in the top with a bread knife.
7.) Sprinkle with sugar, unless you’re feeling like a mean mom.
8.) Bake for 40 minutes, until it is golden brown on top and an inserted knife comes out clean.
9.) Cool and enjoy. This stuff is best on the first day, still pretty good toasted on day 2.