Corned beef and cabbage is traditional and all, but honestly, whenever St. Patrick’s Day rolls around, the thing we find ourselves craving the most is crumbly Irish Soda Bread.
A variety of quick bread, Soda Bread depends on baking soda as a leavening agent, instead of yeast. The buttermilk reacts with the baking soda, creating tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide, resulting in a tender crumb.
Of course, a dry and tasteless Irish soda bread can be just as unappealing as a sickly sweet Christmas fruitcake (well, it’s true). Which is why we make our version with pastry flour (which has lower levels of gluten than bread, wheat, or white flour). We also take special care not to knead or overwork our dough, so the soda bread doesn’t get tough. There’s also butter and oil for moisture (not a given in all soda bread recipes), and sweet raisins, savory fennel seeds, and crunchy walnuts for interest and flavor. Oh, and did we mention that this Soda Bread is made in cute little individualized muffin cups? So “Bain sult as!” as the Irish say. (That translated to enjoy!)
Luck of the Irish Soda Bread Muffins
Makes 1 Dozen
2-1/4 cups pastry or cake flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup raisins
½ cup toasted walnut pieces
In a large bowl, combine the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda and fennel seeds. In another bowl, beat the egg, buttermilk, butter and oil. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Do not knead. Gently fold in raisins and walnuts until just incorporated.
Fill greased muffin cups three-fourths full. Sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to wire rack. Serve warm.