Public Service Announcement: Most Irish soda bread includes raisins. However, I don't like raisins. So if you're lookin' at the soda bread picture thinking that the raisins look suspiciously pink, it's because they are dried cranberries. Use raisins if you prefer.
This is an American-style soda bread. The original Irish soda bread didn't have raisins. Or cranberries. Some American-style Irish soda bread also includes caraway. This one doesn't, but if you like it, feel free to add two to four tablespoons of caraway along with the dry ingredients. You can always go gluten-free with one of these alternative flour blends.
I found one recipe for soda bread that included cornmeal. In fact, it would have made a nice cornbread. Apparently during the famine in Ireland in 1848, the United States shipped dried corn to Ireland. No one knew what to do with it, so they ground it up and made bread. Whether that's true or not, it would be a fine excuse for making cornbread to go with your corned beef.
- 1 cup dried cranberries (or raisins)
- 1/2 cup Irish whiskey (or hot water)
- 4 cups bread flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment. Combine the cranberries and whiskey (or hot water). Cover and set aside to rehydrate for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, soda and salt. Whisk to combine. Cut the butter into slices, then work it into the flour with your fingertips until it is fully incorporated. Add the honey, buttermilk and the cranberries and soaking liquid. Stir with a wooden spoon until all the liquid is absorbed.
Flour your work surface lightly an turn out the dough. Knead until it is smooth. It will still be sticky - try to avoid adding more flour. Form the dough into a 6-8 inch disk about 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 inches high and place it on your prepared baking sheet. Cut an X in the top of the dough across the top, about 1/2 inch deep.
Bake at 375 degrees for 50-60 minutes, until the bread is nicely browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack. If you like a softer crust. cover the bread with a clean kitchen towel as it cools.