No. 131: Irish Soda Bread

One of my favorite things to do when I'm traveling is eat. Regional cuisine is so fun to play with and I love finding new, interesting spots. This week I had two delicious dinners in decidedly different locations in the Boston area.

Boston Eats

Monday night I was in Boston with two other colleagues. We met up for dinner at Stephanie's on Newbury. It's nestled on the corner of Newbury and Exeter, in the heart of one of the best neighborhoods in the city. I just love that whole Back Bay area - the parks, the shopping, the views, the brownstones. I'd live there in a minute.

Stephanie's is a comfy little restaurant in the area with a relaxed feel and terrific food. They are known for the comfort dishes: lobster pot pie, meatloaf and a tower of onion rings. I had tomato gazpacho followed by Arctic char with fried artichoke hearts and quinoa tabbouleh. Frankly, it was the sides that got me all excited, but the fish was incredible as well.

After a full day in the city, I headed off to Needham (30 minutes outside Boston) for work with another client. I was staying at the local Sheraton and it was a Tuesday night. I was pooped. I was hungry. I headed for the hotel bar.

It was packed. Tuesday happy hour is a thing in Needham. And it turns out the Sheraton has a killer bar menu. I watched the Boston Bruins compete in the second round of the Stanley Cup while chatting up fellow road warriors and devouring a phemenal meal. If you stay at a Sheraton, try the fig/goat cheese/thyme flatbread. Awesome.

I'd like to say Wednesday's dinner was just as amazing. Sadly, an airplane snackbox doesn't have the same luster. Even on Virgin America (who has the best food).

Irish Soda Bread

Stephanie's had some delicious soda bread as well as a recipe card in the bread basket.

Recipe card

The recipe below is adapated from the card above as well as Ina Garten's classic version.

Ingredients

4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for currants
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 1/2 cups cold buttermilk
1 extra-large egg
1 cup dried currants*

*I subbed 1/2 cup dried cranberries and 1/2 cup dried cherries

To make

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.

With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk and egg together in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Combine the currants with 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough.

Dough

Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf.

Loaf

Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife.

Ready to bake

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.

Baked soda bread

Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The results

This dense, fresh loaf is so wonderfully filling. A warm slice with some soft butter will "stick to your ribs," as my mother would say. I love that phrase, and in this case it's very true.

Soda bread sliced

The combinations of cherries and cranberries were terrific. Not traditional, but still really great.

If you have a hankering to pay homage to the Emerald Isle this weekend, try making this yummy soda bread.

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