How do you hold tradition? With careful, stern hands or with fiddling and curiosity and a little bit of this and that? We’re asking ourselves the same questions about the cabin. How much do we tinker with and how much do we preserve. And if you read any forums on Irish Soda Bread, you’ll hear the same questions, though it sounds more like yelling. “My Aunt Peg would never put baking powder in her soda bread. It’s soda bread for heaven’s sake!” I tinkered and I yielded, to curiosity and tradition, landing somewhere in between to create this Rosemary Orange Irish Soda Bread. What a moderate thing to do.
Though, this Rosemary Orange Irish Soda Bread is anything but moderate in flavor and texture. It’s rooted in tradition and adjusted by curiosity and the voice of a tiny 6-year-old saying, “Just a teensy bit more sugar, Mom,” until we got it just right.
For the sake of tradition, I kept the flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk composition, despite rarely buying buttermilk. Always leaving behind a half-unused bottle, I often opt for a milk and yogurt or milk and vinegar combo instead.
I broke with tradition by adding sugar, butter, an egg, and plenty of orange zest, currants, and rosemary. And, since it’s best served same day, I scaled the size of the loaf down to a smaller batch to match. I only wear one ring on my wedding ring finger, too. I just hope you can all forgive me.
Somewhere between a scone and a loaf of crusty bread, it’s crusty and craggy exterior yields a soft and subtle interior flecked with tiny sweet currants, bright spots of orange, and earthy shards of rosemary. Serve with a shmear of butter if you must. I must.
I’m saving my sorries for the necessaries. Because if this Rosemary Orange Irish Soda Bread is wrong, I don’t want to be right. (PS—if you find yourself with extra buttermilk, try these tender buttermilk biscuits or this Italian Cream Cake.)
A slightly non-traditional, lightly sweetened, Rosemary Orange Irish Soda Bread. Its crust, craggy crust lends a soft, scone-like interior. If this is wrong, I don’t want to be right.
1/2 c. buttermilk (Kalona Buttermilk is my favorite) 1 large egg, cold 1 tbsp. orange zest (about 1 orange)
2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for shaping 1/4 c. pure cane sugar 1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, roughly chopped (see storage tip below) 1/2 tsp. baking soda 1/2 tsp. kosher salt 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, cold heaping 1/4 c. dried currants
Preheat the oven to 375°F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat. Set aside.
Combine the wet ingredients in a liquid measuring cup and whisk together.
In a large bowl, prepare the dry ingredients. Whisk together the flour, sugar, rosemary, baking soda, and salt. Cut the butter into thin shreds and combine into the flour mixture either with a pastry knife or by rubbing the butter into the flour until it resembles a coarse, crumbly meal.
Pour in the wet ingredients, and stir together with a fork. Once it’s nearly combined, stir in the currants. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, also flouring your hands as a barrier to the dough. Press dough out, cut in half, and stack a couple times until all the little bits are incorporated.
Shape the dough into a round, about 5″ wide and 3″ tall, patting the exterior with a very light coat of flour. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Cut an X in the middle, about 1/2″ deep. Bake for about 45-50 minutes, tenting with foil at the 35-40 minute mark to prevent over browning. Loaf is ready once golden, a tooth pick comes out clean from the center, and a knock to the bottom is hollow. Remove from oven.
Allow to cool until warm before serving, about 20-30 minutes. Best served same day. Leftover bread can be thinly sliced, toasted at 400°F for 5 minutes on each side, and turned into crackers.
If your dough is too dry, add a splash of buttermilk to bring together. Too wet? Add flour.