Every single Irish person I know, and I grew up in Boston, so I know a lot of "Irish" people, has told me that true Irish soda bread contains no fruit. They are extremely adamant on this point. BUT, I distinctly remembered seeing fruit in soda bread on Great British Baking Show, so I was like WHA??? Well, I spoke with an actual Irish person at work, and he assured me that fruit in the soda bread is a distinctly English atrocity, and would not be acceptable in a truly Irish household. Well, that was two weeks ago, but I actually learned this recipe three years ago when I was so so so so so excited that I was about to visit Ireland for the first time, so I'm glad I randomly this fruitless version!
There are two important things in this recipe: the salt and the baking soda. The salt is key because it gives the bread any flavor at all, so that it brings out the natural flavors of whatever spreadable magic you decide to spread on it. The baking soda is only important in that it is not baking powder. Baking soda reacts with the acid in the buttermilk, which now come to think of it is also key, to create the air in the bread. Soda bread is naturally pretty dense, but it would basically be a rock if there were no baking soda in it. Like I said, the buttermilk is also important; its acid is completely required, so heavy cream or milk will not be a workable substitute. Supposedly you can add lemon juice to regular milk and the effect will be the same, but I've tried that and I really don't like the lemon flavor in the bread because I prefer to use savory things as my spread. With buttermilk, anything will taste great! The bread also lasts up to a week in an air-tight container, so if you do happen to let it cool all the way after baking, make sure you have some softened butter close at hand for spreading. I also like to sprinkle a little Kosher salt on top.
Butter Count: 8 Tbsp
4 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
8 Tbsp butter
1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Grease and flour a round cake pan.
2. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Gradually stir in the buttermilk until a slightly sticky dough forms. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead gently no more than 4 times.
3. Scrape the dough into a ball and transfer it to the cake pan. Press the dough down so that it forms a disk that touches the edges of the pan, but is not pressed in so hard that it doesn't easily separate from the pan. Cut an X into the dough with a sharp knife, about 1/2 inch deep.
4. Cover the cake pan with an upside down cake pan. You want the bread to be able to rise, but not spread. The space between the bread and the top pan will also allow steam to build, which will make the outside of the loaf turn crispy.
5. Bake 30 minutes, then remove the top pan and cook 10 more minutes until the loaf is uniformly golden. Remove from the oven, cool for 5 minutes, remove from the pan, slice into 8 slices, and place 1 Tbsp of butter on each slice while they are still warm.
6. If desired, make Jameson-infused raspberry jam by heating a cup of jam over medium heat with 4 Tbsp of Jameson. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until the mixture is thickened. Allow to cool completely and transfer to a clean jar. The mixture will thicken further as it cools.