I’ve been curious about soda bread for a while now – what it’s like, the texture, taste, the usual. I could not for the life of me convince kidlet that it’s not bread made with soda pop or cola. The more I said soda bread, the more she cracked up, as if she’d already been imbibing sugary drinks. Thing is, if it actually was made with some kind of cola she’d probably have been more willing to try a piece.
The recipe we used has candied orange peel as one of the main ingredients. Even though the Specialty Ingredient alarm was clanging in the back of my mind, I for some reason jovially assumed I would still be able to find it locally and in time.
Well I was wroooong. We settled for using orange zest this time, and it was a decent choice, but I want to make this again one day with the candied peel, too. And yes, I know you can make the stuff homemade, but by the time I thought about it, it was too late even for that. I just suck like that sometimes, OK? Moving on!
I believe the original instructions are to rub the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingertips, but we like the pastry blender method at Full Fork, so we did that instead. Rebels we are!
Ooh lookie, lovely orange zest and even lovelier chocolate. A dynamic duo of a team, if ever there was one.
Like many of these things go, Wet Things are added to Dry Things and there was just enough stirring until They were incorporated…
And then you flop that mess onto a floured board and knead for so many “turns”.
Say who? I confess I’m not sure what turns are. Anyway, we kneaded a few times and then patted it into something resembling those loaf things called bread. Our mixture was really, really wet, too, so we did add a little more flour in the kneading process. It was pretty humid that day, so it’s possible that had something to do with the excessively wet dough.
Before you bake it you’re supposed to score the top in this sunburst pattern with a sharp knife so that the design gets baked in. You can kind of see our star burst pattern. If you squint. And wear special glasses or something that reveal the secret pictogram. Yeah.
What you get when it’s all said and done is a very rustic, dense loaf infused with really yummy dark chocolate – you did buy good dark chocolate, right? – and spotted with bits of orange flavor. If you’ve ever made one of those bagged quick bread mixes, it’s a little like that in texture, or like a really dense American biscuit. Serve it up with some nice coffee or tea and enjoy. That’s it – now shoo! Go make your own.
Soda Bread with Dark Chocolate
from Soda Bread with Dark Chocolate & Candied Orange Peel, Bon Appétit, April 2005
Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes Level: Easy Serves: 8
- 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 6 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, cut into 1/3-inch pieces
- 6 ounces candied orange peel, diced (we substituted about 2 teaspoons orange zest)
- 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
- 1 large egg
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; butter parchment. Whisk first 5 ingredients in large bowl to blend. Add butter; rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in chocolate and orange peel. Whisk buttermilk and egg in medium bowl to blend; add to dry ingredients. Stir just until incorporated.
Turn dough out onto floured work surface and knead gently just until dough comes together, about 5 turns. Form dough into 6 1/2-inch-diameter round, about 2 to 2 1/2 inches high. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Using sharp knife, cut 1-inch-deep, 3-inch-long slits in top of bread, forming sunburst pattern.
Bake bread until well browned and very firm when pressed and tester inserted into center comes out clean, turning baking sheet halfway through baking, about 1 hour 10 minutes total. Transfer bread to rack and cool completely, at least 3 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap in foil and store at room temperature.)
This bread seemed best eaten up two days after baking.
Reviews on Epicurious.com suggested using things like dried cranberries or apricots in place of the candied orange peel. Why I didn’t do that is beyond me; it was like I was in some kind of weird fog with this recipe. I’m definitely trying it again next time, either with the candied peel, ordered online if I have to, or cranberries with the orange zest.
We should note, too, that many feel this kind of soda bread is an Americanized version and not true Irish soda bread – heck, they’re probably right. Epicurious has a link to talk about this with more links for further recipes.