Rachel Allen's Brown Soda Bread


[Photograph: Lis Parsons]

For many years, I assumed that Irish soda bread always meant a slightly sweet, caraway and currant laced bread easily mistaken for a giant muffin. Frankly, I never liked this version of the quick bread, much preferring to eat "real bread" with my soup. It's a good thing I was mistaken about the scope of soda breads.

Most of these loaves, like those featured in Rachel's Irish Family Food, are a much simpler (and more appealing) combination of flour, baking soda, and buttermilk. Rachel Allen's brown soda bread adds a bit more oomph with a hefty dose of whole wheat flour, a couple tablespoons of mixed seeds, and just a touch of butter. The resulting bread is an exemplary accompaniment to any number of soups, pickles, marmalades, or a generous swipe of butter.

Why I picked this recipe: You can't have an Irish feast without at least one loaf of soda bread.

What worked: Full-flavored from whole wheat flour and studded with oil-rich seeds, this quick bread was a winner.

What didn't: No problems with this easy recipe.

Suggested tweaks: You could mix in any number of nuts, seeds, or dried fruit to this dough. Keep it around 3 tablespoons for the best texture.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Rachel's Irish Family Food to give away this week.