Irish Soda Bread gets its name from the baking soda that is used instead of yeast as the leavening agent. Easy and quick to make, it’s a traditional, homey bread made from simple ingredients. Modern cooks have put their own spin on soda bread, and it is often prepared with ingredients like raisins, currants, sugar, eggs, and even stout beer! In Ireland, the flour is typically made from soft wheat; so soda bread can be made with cake or pastry flour, which has lower levels of gluten.
This recipe comes from cookbook author Marie Rama, author of “Bacon Nation.” With 125 bacontastic recipes, this cookbook is a must-have for bacon fans everywhere. Marie has improved the traditional Irish Soda Bread recipe by adding bacon and fresh rosemary. This recipe, with pictures, guiding you through each step, can be found on Marie’s blog: www.therewillbebacon.tumblr.com. Follow Marie’s blog for more bacon recipes and bacon baking tips.
Not Your Grandmother’s Irish Soda Bread!
3 slices bacon, cut into ¼-inch pieces
1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1- 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus flour for bread top
1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1-1/2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon, well-shaken buttermilk
1.) Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a large baking sheet.
2.) Cook the bacon in a small skillet over medium heat about 4 to 5 minutes or until some of the fat is rendered and the bacon is lightly browned. Add the rosemary and cook about 30 seconds more, or just until fragrant. Transfer the bacon-rosemary mixture, including all the pan drippings to a medium mixing bowl. Recipe Tip: You don’t want to overcook the bacon at this stage. Ideally, you want the bacon to retain some of its fat so that it releases that fat into the bread when it’s baked. Remember this tip whenever a recipe calls for first sauteeing the bacon and then roasting or baking it later in the dish.
3.) Add the butter to the skillet and cook over medium heat until the butter is melted and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and set it aside.
4.) Add the bacon-rosemary mixture, the 1-3/4 cups flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, pepper and salt to a large bowl and stir to combine. Combine the buttermilk and the browned butter (using a rubber spatula to scrape all the melted butter from the skillet) and pour it over the flour mixture; stir with a fork until the flour mixture forms a moist dough.
5.) Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it gently just until the dough comes together, about 6 to 7 times. (Don’t over knead the dough or the bread will be tough.) Shape the dough into a ball and then flatten into a 6-inch round.
6.) Place the round on the baking sheet. Sprinkle the top lightly with a little extra flour. Using a sharp knife, cut a large, 1/2-inch-deep X in the top of the loaf.
7.) Bake the bread until its top is a golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack at least 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.