Irish Soda Bread

I made bread! Two entire loaves of spongey, salty homemade bread. I am ridiculously proud of myself right now.

Learning how to grill burgers and bake cakes and make pesto and stuff has been great, but there’s truly nothing more satisfying than homemade bread, fresh out of the oven. It makes your entire house smell cozy and inviting. In fact, the only reason why I don’t bake bread every freaking day is because bread is really tricky and temperamental. Oh sure, you’d never think that something as simple as bread would involve things like kneading and rising and asking confused grocery store staff where they keep the active yeast, but real bread making is a pursuit best left to people who know what they’re doing. Or people with bread making machines.

But this Irish Soda Bread is a dangerous recipe. Other than the buttermilk (which we just happened to have on hand), it uses ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry. It has no knead time or rise time — literally all you do is dump the ingredients in a mixer and then stick it in the oven for 45 minutes. Plus it’s infinitely variable — you can add citrus zest, blueberries, poppyseeds, or whatever else you can imagine. So yeah. Instant bread, with no weird ingredients, no hassle, that you can adjust according to your tastes. After this discovery, I have a feeling we’re just always going to have a few loaves sitting on the counter.

My brother found the recipe in a random old cookbook that I don’t think has ever been opened before last Saturday. The cookbook, called “The American Country Inn and Bed & Breakfast Cookbook,” allegedly includes recipes for good old fashioned American cooking from quaint lodgings all over the country. The recipes are not divided by course or even ingredient, but by state. The recipe for Sunny Pines Irish Soda Bread hails from Massachusetts, so there’s a chance they might actually know what they’re talking about.

Ingredients (yields 2 loaves):

-3 cups all-purpose flour

-1/2 cup sugar

-1 tbsp baking powder

-1 tsp baking soda

-1 tsp salt

-2 eggs

-2 cups buttermilk

-2 tbsp butter, melted

-1 cup raisins or currants (optional)

-2 tbsp caraway seeds (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix together very well (this takes the place of kneading, so err on the side of over-mixing).  The dough should be very tough and have the consistency of very stubborn Play-Doh.

If you so desire, now is the time to fold in any add-ins, like raisins or caraway, with a rubber spatula.

Spread dough into two greased loaf pans. The dough should only fill about half of each pan. Remember: bread rises!

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, until hollow when tapped and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Now begins a series of bread time-lapse pictures, because watching dough turn into bread as the scent of it slowly permeates your kitchen and your brain is actually a magical experience (note: sticking your camera in an oven is probably a bad idea, but what can I say. I live dangerously).

After ten minutes, the dough starts to look like a rumpled pillow. Or like thighs with a lot of cellulite. That first image is probably more pleasant to associate with food, though, so you can forget that last bit about the cellulite thighs (ha! You can’t! It will stay with you forever).

After 20 minutes, the dough looks like a fluffy cloud.

By 30 minutes, it’s actually starting to look bread-like!

And after 40 minutes, the loaves look golden, delicious, and done!

We immediately tore into loaf number one, nibbling our bread while drinking tea and watching “The Kids Are Alright,” which is a really great movie.

After my parents got home, loaf number one didn’t even last the night. But the best part? Waking up the next morning and realizing we still had more bread! And it tasted slightly different after sitting overnight. Not hard or gross different. Just… different.

Mmm bread. Just thinking about it makes me wish we had more! We still have half a cup of buttermilk left over, so maybe I’ll give it a second try tomorrow night. Actually, when I was flipping through this cookbook, I found another bread recipe for Genevieve’s Cardamom Bread, which also sounds delicious. I might have to try that one, instead…

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