In the March edition of Bon Appetit, there was a wonderful article written by Andrew McCarthy (St. Elmo's Fire, Brat pack fame) exploring places and foods of Ireland. One recipe that stood out was Mrs. O'Callaghan's Soda Bread. Mrs. O'Callaghan is a cook at the Ballinalacken Castle Country House and Restaurant and she states that she has been making her mother's recipe for soda bread for 45 years.
This recipe differs from others I have made in the past in that this one uses both white and whole wheat flour giving the bread more density and heartiness. As well, it has the addition of brown sugar which adds a wonderful caramel sweetness to the finished product. The recipe called for one large loaf but I divided the dough into two loaves so that I could share one with my mother-in-law.
"May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you
In the palm of his hand." (Old Irish blessing)
Mrs. O'Callaghan's Soda Bread
3 cups all purpose flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 stick chilled butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray baking sheet with nonstick spray. Whisk both flours, sugar and baking soda in medium bowl to blend. Add butter and cut it until the butter is the size of peas. Add buttermilk; stir until a shaggy dough forms. (Note:I had to add about 1/4 cup more buttermilk to get my dough into a ball). Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until dough comes together, about 10 times. Place dough on prepared baking sheet. Cut large X 1/2 inch deep into top of dough.
Bake bread until deep brown and bottom sounds hollow when firmly tapped, about 40 minutes. (Note: My two loaves to about 30 minutes to cook). Transfer bread to rack and cool completely.