Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread

Happy St Patrick’s Day!  It’s going to be an absolutely gorgeous day here – sunny and 60! – hopefully spring weather is here to stay :)  We don’t celebrate St Patrick’s Day in a big way (no parades, parties, etc.) but I did whip up this Irish soda bread and tonight we’ll have corned beef and cabbage for dinner.  Last year I made Irish soda bread for the first time and it was a big hit with my family so I wanted to try another recipe this year.  I came upon this recipe while browsing Cook’s Illustrated and thought it would be interesting with its combination of all-purpose, whole wheat and cake flours as well as toasted wheat germ.

Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread

The best thing about Irish soda breads is how easy they are to whip up – the leavening is provided by the baking soda and buttermilk so there are no long rising times or kneads.  I took a few liberties with this recipe, mainly because I discovered I didn’t have enough cream of tartar after I’d started to combine the dry ingredients.  A quick Google search indicated I could substitute 1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar for the cream of tartar so that’s exactly what I did.  I was also using powdered buttermilk as I’ve found it always works in recipes and keeps much longer than the quarts I used to buy for baking.    The dough was quite sticky and looked very ragged when I put it in the cast iron skillet to bake (wish I’d taken a photo) so don’t be concerned if you run into a similar situation.  Although the recipe calls for baking the bread in a cast iron skillet, you could also use a baking sheet but you may get a slightly less crunchy crust on the bread.  My baking time was only about 38 minutes so you probably want to check the bread earlier than the 40-45 minute suggested baking period.

Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread

I was surprised when I cut into this bread by its moist and soft texture; it was a wonderful contrast to the crisp crust.  I slathered a slice with butter and thought it was completely delicious – slightly nutty and hearty.  I passed most of my loaf onto my mom and step-dad and they gave it some of the most rave reviews I’ve heard and since I share a ton of my baked goods with them, that’s saying something!  If you’re looking for a last minute recipe this St Patrick’s Day, this is definitely one worth considering!

Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread

Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread
adapted just slightly from Cook’s Illustrated

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 F.   

Whisk together the flours, wheat germ, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter to the bowl and rub it into the flour using your fingers or a pastry cutter until it is completely incorporated and the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and add the buttermilk. Using a fork, incorporate the buttermilk into the dry ingredients just until the dough comes together in large clumps.  Turn the dough onto a well-floured work surface and knead very briefly until any loose flour is just moistened – the dough will be very sticky so you might need to add a small amount of flour so you can handle it.  The dough will look scrappy and uneven.

Form the dough into a round about 6 to 7 inches in diameter and place in a cast iron skillet.  Use a knife to score a deep cross into the top of the loaf.  Bake until the bread is nicely browned and a tester comes out clean when inserted into the center of the loaf, about 40 to 45 minutes.  Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.