Irish Soda Bread (Buns)

Irish soda bread (2)

Happy St. Patrick’s day!
(Belated… actually, since by the time I could not finish compiling all the pictures yesterday.)

And the day began on a very – very happy note. My brother-in-law and his wife were blessed with a baby girl. We had been hoping for some good news since yesterday night and she chose to decide her own sweet time of arrival. Both mamma and the little princess are doing great and the whole family is celebrating! So we woke up to a festive mood. Had long chats back at home and with the proud father which made me, for a while, reflect on the wonders  of life. Creating a life and nurturing it for months and then finally holding it in your arms is a big feat. A big congrats for that.

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From now on St. Patrick’s day will always be celebrated in the big “C” family, though a little differently than the traditional Irish meals and beer. No, our families hardly have heard of this day; even I realized the significance of this day after I came to the US.

This year I decided to make something Irish.The recipe had featured in the NYTimes and BBC had found it for me yesterday. So what better than today to make the Irish Soda Buns.

I have to thank dear husband – who is the ‘photographer’ in the family – for today’s pictures. Though I usually click almost all the photos for my cookbook (with an exception of one or two), this time I was glad BBC was home and eager to do the shoot. In fact yesterday when he came to me with the recipe he told he would click if I made it. So there you are … I have a number of pics – step by step – for a better illustration. (Click on the pictures for a better visibility.) I got him to do the shots and he delighted me by saying we were a good team – in his word – “you cooking and me clicking”. Secretly, I do like him taking some interest in my cookbook but I am not sure I would like him clicking all my cookbook photos from now on. Not that he will be able to give that time to my ‘little projects’ as he calls them. After all I do enjoy the whole process – the recipe research, then cooking, clicking and editing and finally writing. Enough of the blabbering for now and time for the recipe.

Note: To me, these buns are almost the same as Scones so maybe they are Irish Scones. The name comes from the fact that baking soda is used as the leavening agent. This uses buttermilk but since I did not have it at home I made a substitute for it. Refer to the end if you need to use a buttermilk substitute.

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Ingredients:

  • All purpose flour – 1 1/4 cup
  • Whole wheat flour – 3/4 cup
  • Sugar  – 1/4 cup
  • Salt – 1 tsp
  • Baking Soda – 3/4 tsp
  • Baking powder – 1 1/2 tsp
  • Butter, cold and cut into small pieces or grated – 3 tbsp
  • Egg – 1 large
  • Butter milk – 2/3 cup + some more for brushing. For buttermilk substitution go to the end of  this post
  • Golden raisins – 2/3 cup, can use dried currents or cranberries
  • Caraway seeds – 1 1/2 tsp (as mentioned in the recipe though I did not use it)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Prepare a baking tray by lining it with a parchment paper or lightly greasing it with oil / butter. I udually use 2 layers of parchment paper as using only one it for me. Am not sure why but I use the one from Costco.Irish Soda Bread
  2. In a mixing bowl add the dry ingredients – all purpose flour, wheat flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Whisk it well so that there are no lumps.
  3. Add the cut or grated butter and mix it well with a pastry cutter or two knives or using your fingers. Mix it well till all the flour is well incorporated and it looks like coarse crumbs. For better understanding check the method used in the Scones recipe.
  4. In a separate bowl whisk buttermilk and egg.
  5. Add the egg – buttermilk  mixture to the dry mixture, mix it lightly.Irish Soda Bread1
  6. Add the raisins or currents or cranberries and the caraway seeds (if using) and mix it till it combines into a moist dough. Do not over handle or over mix the dough.Irish Soda Bread2
  7. Sprinkle some flour onto a work surface and transfer the dough.
  8. Knead it lightly and pat it into a 1 inch thick round. Sprinkle some more flour if the dough is too sticky.
  9. You can either use the whole round for baking or cut them into small rounds and then bake. I preferred the latter one.Irish Soda Bread3
  10. Using a lightly floured cookie cutter (I did not have that so instead I used the rim of a wine glass) cut the dough into small rounds and place them on the baking tray.
  11. Gather the leftover dough, reform into a circle and cut again.
  12. You can also cut into small wedges (refer Scones recipe) and either bake them as it is or shape each wedge into a ball. Either way the tastes remain the same.
  13. Place the cut rounds or wedges onto the lined baking sheet spacing each a few inches apart. Ensure there is some spacing in between each bun as it will spread a little. Irish Soda Bread4
  14.  Using a lightly floured knife cut lightly a cross (‘X’) onto the top of each bun. Refer the pictures.
  15. Brush the top with buttermilk with a pastry brush. I did not have one I used a spoon to do so. This process is called ‘glazing’ and it helps the tops to brown while baking.
  16. At this stage if you want you can sprinkle some powdered sugar on top of each bun.  I forgot to sprinkle any sugar before baking, therefore I did it after they were baked. This is an optional step.
  17. Bake them in the preheated oven at 375 F for 15 – 18 minutes or until done. Mine took 12 mins to bake, but the time may vary from oven to oven. If you are not cutting the bread into smaller buns the baking time will be almost 45- 55 minutes.  The buns are done when a tooth pick inserted into it comes out clean. Remember the bread will keep cooking for some more time even when out of oven and onto a cooling rack so do not over bake it.
  18. Once done transfer it on a cooling rack. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
  19. If baking a whole bread cut it into thin slices.
  20. Serve it with some butter or cream and enjoy!

Buttermilk Substitution: If you do not have buttermilk at home (like me) prepare the substitute as follows:

  • Using white vinegar: Add 1 tbsp of white vinegar or lemon juice to a measuring cup. Add milk (little less than 1 cup) to the vinegar / lemon juice so that it reaches the 1 cup measure. Stir it and Let it sit for 5-10 minutes. The milk will curdle lightly. Stir and use as much as your recipe calls for.
  • Using yogurt: – Add 2 tablespoons milk with enough plain yogurt to equal one cup.
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Scones

Scone is a small Scottish bread pronounced as rhyming with “con” and “John” or as in US as rhyming with “cone” and “Joan”.

I first thought of making it when my applesauce experiment turned out to be really nice and I needed an accompaniment with it. Somehow Scones seemed like the best option and voila… the combination turned out to be the perfect Friday late afternoon snack along with a cup of coffee. They looked and smelled so gorgeous and my whole house smelled like a bakery. I made almost 8 of them and they were so filling we had it for 2 days. Now I can think of making it very often because it is easy, needs minimum preparation and can be made with ingredients readily available at home. So next time I have friends or family staying overnight I do intend to make it for breakfast. However they can be made beforehand and stored for later use. Even the dough can be frozen and baked as and when required. I made a basic (or cream if fresh cream is used instead of milk) scone recipe, but you can also add blueberries or chocolate chips as variations to this.

So get started and fill your kitchen with the flavor of fresh baking.

Ingredients:

  • Flour – 2 cups
  • Sugar – 1/4 cup or 50 gms (approx)
  • Baking powder – 2 tsp
  • Salt – 1/4 tsp
  • Cold butter – 5 tbsp or 75 gms
  • Egg – 1
  • Vanilla – 1 tsp
  • Milk / Half & Half or Cream – a little less than 1/2 cup.
  • Flour – for sprinkling
  • Egg wash (mixture of egg with milk) or milk or cream – for glazing

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 375 F with the oven rack in the middle. Line a baking tray or cookie sheet with parchment paper or grease it lightly.
  • In a bowl whisk together sifted flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
  • Cut the cold butter into small pieces and blend it into the flour mixture using a pastry blender or two knives or with fingertips. Alternatively (and that is precisely what I did) grate the cold butter using a sharp grater with large holes and blend it with the flour mixture with fingers. Mix well till it looks like coarse crumbs.
  • In a separate bowl mix together milk or half & half or cream with well beaten egg and vanilla.
  • Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and mix lightly till combined. Handle the dough lightly, do not over mix, do not knead the dough as done in a bread.
  • Sprinkle some flour on the work surface or kitchen slab and transfer the dough to it.
  • Pat it into a 1 inch thick round. If the dough is too sticky sprinkle some more flour on it.
  • Scones can be of various shapes. For round – use a lightly floured cookie cutter and cut the dough into rounds. Gather the remaining dough, reform into a circle and cut again. For wedges/triangles (I did not have a cookie cutter so I preferred the wedges) – Using a knife cut the round dough into 8 equal triangles.
  • Place the cut rounds or wedges onto the lined baking sheet spacing each a few inches apart.
  • Brush the top of the scones with egg wash or milk or cream with a pastry brush. Since I did not have one I used a spoon to do so. This process is called ‘glazing’ and it helps the tops to brown while baking.
  • Bake them in the preheated oven at 375 F for 15-18 mins. Mine took almost 12 mins to bake. Oven temperature and time may vary so adjust accordingly. The scones are done when a tooth pick inserted into the scone come out clean.
  • Once done, remove and transfer to a cooling rack or dish towel to cool down.
  • Serve them warm with cream or butter or jams.

Scones are best eaten fresh but also can be covered and stored for later use or can also be frozen.