Being of Irish heritage, I think there is something in my genes that makes me love this holiday! Or maybe my affinity for St. Patrick’s Day comes from growing up with my mom’s green milk, corned beef, and cabbage, which often made for an exciting mid-week treat. Whatever the cause, I can’t help but be fascinated by the Emerald Isle and her legends, fairies, and folklore.
A few years ago, I began baking of Irish soda bread as part of my personal St. Patty’s tradition – what better way to soak up the Guinness? Traditional soda bread, or brown bread, has very few ingredients: just flour, baking soda, buttermilk, and salt. The American versions add all kinds of other ingredients that make it more of a cake. Depending on where you are and who you ask, these recipes are called “Spotted Dog” or “Bannock.” For a quite passionate explanation of Irish soda bread, visit The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread. The site is quite useful if you’re trying to be as authentic as possible, or just want some random facts to annoy your friends with over a few pints.
This year, I have opted for a Spotted Dog, as I wanted a bit of treat for breakfast. I’ll save the traditional brown bread for serving with dinner, as it should be! In place of currants, I planned to use the package of raisins that I knew was in the cabinet. However, I discovered at 6am that someone in the house has been snacking on them and left about 12 raisins in the bottom of the bag. So this year’s bread has a mix of cranberries and a few raisins. Ideally, this would be made with currants.
Spotted Dog Recipe
- 1 cup all-purpose white flour
- 1 cup “white” whole wheat flour
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp sea salt
- 2 tbsp Irish butter, cold and diced
- 1 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup currants, raisins, or cranberries
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a baking sheet.
Mix together the flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Using the paddle of a standing mixer (or your clean hands, like I do), work in the butter until it looks a bit like a meal.
Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk. Start with 1 cup and add more as needed. Combine and add currants. Knead the dough for about 5 min. If it’s too sticky, add a light sprinkle of flour.
Shape to be round and slightly flat. Using a floured knife, cut a 1/2 inch deep cross in the top. This will allow the loaf to expand and make for easy cutting into quarters.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, until golden. Tapping the bottom of the bread should produce a hollow sound.
The loaf should cool and set, but frankly, I can’t wait that long! It tastes great while still warm and topped with butter. Enjoy and happy St. Patrick’s Day!!