With St. Patty's Day coming up, I am seeing a lot of Irish soda bread in stores, which got me thinking about soda bread and what it is. Soda breads (and biscuits) are a type of quick bread that uses bread soda (aka baking soda) as a leavening agent. This method works because the baking soda will react with the lactic acid in milk (and buttermilk) to form carbon dioxide.
I'd also been thinking abut biscuits for a while, so I thought I would combine the two and make some soda bread biscuits! I hoped for far better results than my previous biscuit making attempts, since those resulted in some golden brown hockey pucks! Fortunately, I am excited to report that these soda bread biscuits not only filled the apartment with their sweet aroma, but they were incredibly light and crusty, even after being stored! You can make them even lighter by using cake flour or white flour. However, I opted to use a 50/50 mixture of white and wheat flour. As for the cross on top, some theories say that it's to ward off evil spirits or to let the fairies out of the bread - or perhaps the fairies ward off the evil spirits, I'm not really sure. :P In addition, the cross allows for a more uniform heat transfer to the inside part of the bread.
Traditionally, the bread does not have any "add-ins" like raisins, zest, etc. However, since I had some dried cherries that I wanted to use and many American versions of the Irish soda bread use raisins, I thought I would throw some cherries into half the dough and make a half batch of plain and a half batch with cherries. Both turned out wonderfully! I prefer the ones with cherries and James prefers the plain ones, so there's no fighting over who gets which ones. :)
|3 cups||flourv||I used half wheat and half white.|
|1 teaspoon||baking soda|
|1.25 cups||buttermilk||Or 1.25 cups milk with 1 tablespoon replaced by vinegar.|
|dried cherries, raisins, zest, etc.||Optional|
- Butter a muffin tin. I used 12 ramekins instead since my muffin tin went missing, and those worked well too.
- Mix the remaining butter with the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt until it's homogeneous. If you're using any add-ins, add them at this point.
- Pour the buttermilk (or milk and vinegar) into the center of the flour and mix gently. A minimal amount of handling/mixing should be used to avoid toughening the dough. The dough should be a bit moist, but not too sticky. If it's too wet or dry, add either flour or buttermilk/milk.
- Working quickly, separate the dough into 12 portions and place one into each well in the muffin tin. Once the acidic milk and alkaline baking soda mix, carbon dioxide will begin to form and the leavening will start.
- Bake at 425F until the tops are golden brown and delicious. A toothpick inserted in the center of the biscuit should come out clean and tapping on the top should result in a hollow sound.