Brown Butter Irish Soda Bread
One of the beautiful things about Irish soda bread is its speediness. As soon as a craving for soda bread hits, you turn on the oven, give the dough a few stirs, and bake it -- no rising, no chilling, just hot bread in under an hour from start to finish.
This recipe calls for browning a knob of butter in a skillet and baking the soda bread directly in that skillet. The bread comes out of the oven with a crisp, golden brown crust, ideal for spreading with very good butter and jam.
Serves 6 - 8
¾ cup raisins or currants
5½ tablespoons cold unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
1¾ cups buttermilk*
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Place the raisins in a small bowl and pour in enough boiling water to cover completely. Let stand for about 10 minutes, then drain.
Meanwhile, heat a 10- or 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Swirl in 1½ tablespoons of the butter and cook until it browns and smells nutty, 3 - 4 minutes. Turn off the heat, swirl the butter around so that it coats the sides of the skillet, and let it cool while you make the dough.
In a large bowl, stir together the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, brown sugar, and salt. Using your fingers, rub the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter into the flour mixture until there are no butter pieces larger than a pea. Beat the egg together with the buttermilk, then pour into the bowl. Add the drained raisins. Use a wooden spoon to quickly but gently mix, just until almost all of the flour is incorporated. Be careful not to overwork the dough.
Use two spoons to scoop 6 tennis ball-sized balls of dough into the skillet--these small rolls will rise and spread together while the soda bread bakes, creating one large soda bread with many valleys and crests. (You can also just transfer the entire dough directly into the skillet, if you prefer.)
Bake for 26 - 28 minutes, until the soda bread is lightly golden brown around the edges. Serve warm, with generous amounts of butter.
*Note: If you don't have any buttermilk on hand, you can mix 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar into 1 cup milk and let it stand for about 10 minutes.