Saturday, March 17, 2012

A little something Irish(ish)

That is a delicious, personal-sized soda bread. No, it's not 100% authentic Irish soda bread. Then again, despite my new Irish last name, I'm really authentically Irish, either. But since it's my first year with anything linking me to √Čire, I wanted to do something a little special for St. Patrick's day.

Traditionally, soda bread does not contain eggs. It also doesn't traditionally come in cute little individual loaves nor does it come with dried sour cherries. However, I love food sized for just one and I love, love, love dried sour cherries so I think these little breads are extra charming, and I hope you agree. Of course, you could stick to raisins but I'm telling you, the cherries and caraway seed combination is a winner... I bet even dried apricots could be really good but don't tell that to your soda bread purist friends. Luckily, these single-serving portions also mean you don't need to eat the whole loaf the day you make it; just freeze the little loaves and warm them up in a 350 degree oven whenever the mood strikes. I like mine for breakfast, slathered in good butter, with an egg on the side.

Individual Cherry Raisin Soda Breads
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, March 2000
Technique for mini-breads adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 8 mini loaves

Note: the mini loaves are tricky only in that it can be difficult to tell when they are done. They should look golden brown on the outside and when you check the temperature it should be 170 degrees in the center. However, given their diminutive size, an accurate reading is not always easy to get. Another way to tell is how the bread feels as you slide the probe in-- if it feels sticky at all, it's still raw in the center. When in doubt, go a few more minutes as nothing is more disappointing than breaking open your bread and finding a doughy middle.

4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
4 tablespoons cold unsalter butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup dried sour cherries
1 1/2 scant cups buttermilk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1-2 tablespoons of melted butter, for brushing on the finished loaves

1. Prheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and caraway seeds until thoroughly mixed.

2. With a pastry cutter or your fingertips, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. Stir in raisins and cherries, making sure they are distributed evenly.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg, and baking soda well. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the mixture all and stir with a fork until all the liquid is absorbed and the mixture begins to hold together. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead it a few times to make sure the mixture is cohesive. Be sure not to over-knead-- we're not looking for a smooth bread dough, but rather something closer to a biscuit dough.

4. Form the dough into a round. With a pastry blade or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 8 even wedges. Form each wedge into a little ball and place it on the parchment-lined baking sheet. With kitchen shears, carefully cut a small X on the top of each loaf.

5. Transfer to the loaves to the oven and bake, rotating the sheet halfway through, until the loaves are golden brown and cooked all the way through (see note above), 25-30 minutes. Remove the loaves from the oven and brush with melted butter. Serve warm with lots of good butter to go around.


  1. Replies
    1. Give it a try! This bread comes together really quickly and makes plenty to share with friends.