I admit it. I arose this morning slightly pickled from wine. Friday night started off innocently enough with a glass of vouvray, progressing to a sparkling grüner veltliner or two and ending with a glass of … umm … red? That, and polishing off an entire dessert plate of cookies from Scampo.
Despite last night’s shenanigans, I promised myself I was going to make Irish soda bread and so I headed to the kitchen—because a promise is a promise no matter how many glasses you’ve downed or cookies you’ve eaten—and got to work. Well, first I made butter because I needed the buttermilk for the soda bread. Then I got to work.
Butter making aside, this is a shamefully simple bread. And is hard to mess up, even if your sobriety is in question (which I suppose is fitting given said recipe and the reputation of the Irish, in general). Also appropriate, arguably non-negotiable even, is the crucial step of plumping the currants in some whiskey. Which provided a visual for how my little shrived up liver was likely feeling, as well.
In under an hour, I was enjoying the sweet, crunchy crust and tender crumbs of my labor, and rapidly becoming a soda bread enthusiast. While soda bread has a sinister reputation for being dry, I assure you this one is not. Nor is it boring with its boozy currants and hint of anise, which I admit is not Irish, but what can I say: I’m Italian.
Should you not want to make your own—or perhaps have had a night similar to mine and don’t feel up to “morning after” soda bread baking—I suggest you head to the newly opened Wholy Grain bakery in the South End. They have a nutty oatmeal soda bread that is to die for. And they sell it by the loaf. Their recipe is from the owner’s brother’s bakery in Ireland and was the inspiration for the soda bread pledge I made with myself.
Soda bread is still regularly found on dinner tables in Ireland and is worth including on yours, especially given our proximity to St. Patrick’s Day. But you don’t need the luck of the Irish, nor do you really need to have all your wits about you to make this recipe. You just need a plan, a pan, and some whiskey. Which might actually make for a pretty good life slogan, as well. I’ll ponder that one as I eat my next slice …