|Bacon topped Irish soda bread, a traditional St. Patrick's Day recipe, gets a little infusion of freshly cracked black pepper.|
Irish Soda BreadI have been cooking up a storm of my own getting some Irish dishes ready to post for y'all for the St. Patrick's holiday. I bet you can't tell by the picture of that pale woman you've seen that I've actually got Irish roots! And I ain't talkin' hair roots so don't let that brown hair of mine fool ya ... I actually did have pretty blond hair once upon a time as a young gal. It's gotten progressively darker as I've gotten older and shrunk away from the sun worshiper that I once was back in the day. I don't even try to keep it lighter much anymore, though that's subject to change according to my mood. So I'm Catholic, and I'm Irish and I live in the south. Surprise! Believe it or not I actually have some Czech roots mixed up down in there somewhere too, but that's another post for another day.
So, let's start off our Irish feast with some Irish Soda Bread which is pretty much an essential St. Patrick's Day dish. We need to have some bread to accompany the rest of the recipes coming up afterall!
Irish Soda Bread is traditionally made of flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. The introduction of inexpensive bread soda back in the early 1800s when mixed with buttermilk, meant that virtually anybody could make bread now, usually in a cast iron pot right in the coals of a fireplace since most folks did not have ovens back then. Outside of those basic 4 ingredients, anything else added is considered a variation from the authentic bread though I don't know why people get all up in arms about recipes being authentic anyway. I always say make 'em your own - yes, even my recipes!
Being the rebel that I am, here I use some black pepper and then top that bread with some bacon to southernize it, just like Emeril Lagasse, who this and a few other Irish recipes I'm bring to you this year originated from. I've seen loads of recipes that include raisins or currants and some that add caraway seeds, so feel free to add those if you like.
Just a note here ... the original recipe was kind of unclear but appeared to call for putting the chopped up raw bacon on top of the bread, which would probably make the bacon sort of adhere to the bread as it cooked, while infusing the loaf a bit with bacon fat. I couldn't bring myself to do that - didn't want that much grease in my bread either - so my bacon fried off pretty crisp by the time the bread was cooked and is just sort of sitting there on top! It still imparted some bacony flavor to the bread, but if you do go with the raw I'd be absolutely certain to stick a baking sheet on the rack underneath your bread. I can't imagine that bacon grease wouldn't run off as the bread rises and what a mess that would make - but maybe next time I'll do a test run. YMMV.
It is also a tradition to cut two slashes in the top of the bread before it goes into the oven. This is primarily to get the heat down into the thick part of the bread to help with cooking it, but as we Catholics are known to do, there is of course symbolism there also. The slashes, which resemble a cross, blesses the bread by "crossing" it and it is said, releases any demons or evil. It's really a nice bread, just a tad dense and simply delicious. Here's how to make it.
Adapted from an Emeril Lagasse Every Day's a Party
Recipe: Irish Soda Bread©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min |Cook time: 40 min | Yield: About 4 to 6 servings
- 4 slices of bacon, chopped
- 4 cups of all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper, or to taste
- 2 cups of buttermilk
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray a round cake pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
In a separate skillet, cook the bacon slightly just to render out some of the fat, but remove it from the heat before it gets crisp. Set skillet aside.
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and pepper. Stir in the buttermilk until mixed well and dough is shaggy. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and pat the dough gently into a small square shape. Make folds with the dough, bringing the dough in from the outside toward the middle, all the way around all sides of the dough. Shape the dough into a round disk and place it into the prepared cake pan. Pat the dough down gently to fill the pan. Cut two slits in the top of the dough to form a cross. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and just a bit of the fat from the skillet and scatter the bacon on top of the bread.
Bake at 450 degrees F for 15 minutes. Reduce to 400 degrees F and bake another 25 minutes or until nicely browned. Using a wide spatula, remove the bread from the cake pan and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cool before slicing.
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