As the wife of a musician in an Irish rock band (shameless plug, listen here: Mighty Ploughboys), March is a busy month and completely revolves around St. Paddy’s Day. Yes, with a “d” not a “t” look it up. Anywho, I’m cooking up a few special recipes to help celebrate Irish heritage. I don’t bake bread much, but Irish soda bread is super easy to make and this combination of caraway and cheddar is a delicious non-traditional twist on the classic.
We finally bit the bullet and are doing the whole AncestryDNA thing. I don’t think there will be any surprises, but you never know. Maybe I’ll even discover I’m a wee bit Irish. I think there is great Uncle Sheamus somewhere on my mom’s side, so anything is possible.
While soda bread is an old Irish tradition, it’s not really all that old. Bicarbonate of soda was first was introduced to Ireland around the 1840s. Made with inexpensive and basic ingredients – flour, baking soda, soured milk, and salt – it’s a recipe born out of struggle. With limited money, limited access, you make do with what you have.
I’m most familiar with soda bread as a round loaf that has an X cut into the top, which is apparently how Southern Irish regions make it. The cross was cut on top to ward off the devil and protect the household. However, the shape of the loaves varies by region. Northern regions divide their dough into four pieces and cook triangle-shaped pieces on a griddle.
Soda bread is considered a quick bread. It uses the chemical reaction of baking soda and buttermilk to give it lift, so there’s no pesky wait time for it to rise like with yeast-based bread. You can get this sucker from raw ingredients to sliced finished product in about an hour.
I gave mine a modern savory twist with caraway seeds and a sharp aged Irish cheddar. This savory soft bread is the perfect accompaniment to corned beef or to sop up beef stew. Or, to slice, toast and enjoy as part of an Irish breakfast feast. Or, just tear off a piece as a snack.
Caraway Cheddar Irish Soda Bread
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1 1/4 cup grated aged sharp Irish cheddar
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 whole jumbo egg
- Heat the oven to 425° Fahrenheit. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or a silpat.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, pepper, caraway, and cheddar.
- In a small bowl whisk together the egg and buttermilk.
- Stir in the buttermilk mixture to the flour and mix until fully incorporated and forms a sticky ball.
- Flour your hands and place the very sticky dough onto a heavily floured work surface. Roughly knead the dough into a ball shape.
- Place the dough ball onto the lined baking sheet. With a sharp knife cut an X on top of the soda bread.
- Season the top with a pinch more salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown.
- Let cool for 15 minutes before slicing.