The other night I tried a new stew that turned out to be, shall we say, less than inspiring. Before I knew it was going to need a couple more tries, I was in search of something to serve with it. I had meant to buy a nice bread when I was at the grocery store, but I didn't put it on the list and as such, I forgot to buy it.
I'm basically a stay-at-home person, especially in the winter. I don't like being cold, and since it was freezing outside, there was absolutely no way in the world I was going to suit up again just to go out and buy a bread. No way. I needed to find something in my house that would do the job.
Since all I had was Kate's favorite "health" bread, I had to come up with something else. Fortunately, I am almost pathological in my quest to keep a well stocked pantry, and I had enough ingredients to bake any bread I could come up with. What I didn't have was time, so I had to come up with a recipe that required no rising.
That's what's great about Irish soda bread. There's no yeast, just baking soda so there's no rising time. It's perfect with stew (and since the stew was only so-so, it turned out to be the star of the show). Irish soda bread is easy to make, albeit a little on a sticky side, and can be on the table in just over an hour, mixing and cooling, included.
Despite the fact that Kate doesn't like raisins "in things", I threw them in anyway because I thought they would be a nice complement to the stew. And they would have been, had the stew been a better complement to itself.
But beware! This dough is very sticky. Make sure that when you dump the dough onto your counter that it's well floured. I'm not talking a light dusting of flour. Make sure there's lots of flour on the counter and on your hands as well.
This bread is not only perfect with hearty winter stews, it's also nice toasted in the morning. That's if there's any leftover.
Recipe: Irish Soda Bread
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 3/4 cups cold buttermilk, shaken
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 cup dried currants or raisins
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.
With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Combine the currants with 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough. It will be very wet.
Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.
Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.