Yes indeed-y…Day Two of the St. Patrick’s Day count down and today I’m featuring Irish Soda Bread Muffins. Now before you folks in Ireland sneak a peek at the ingredients and start shaking your head, raising your eyebrow and getting a bit huffy…let me explain. I didn’t actually say “traditional Irish Soda Bread” Muffins. I openly admit, these muffins are a departure from “traditional” Irish Soda Bread. Traditional Irish Soda bread is a quick bread, meaning it uses baking soda as a leavener rather than yeast. The only other ingredients involved are flour, either whole meal, used for the every-day, or white, which was used for special occasions, buttermilk and salt. That’s it! Back in the day, currants were a luxury item which again might have been used along with a bit of sugar or an egg if the bread was being made for a special occasion, but not on a daily basis.
Soda bread was traditionally cooked in a lidded cast iron pan which was placed directly on the coals of a fire. Irish immigrants brought the recipe for this bread with them when they came to America. This is the point where things begin to change, or I suppose you could say evolved if you had a friendly eye to the changes. Clever folks are quick to adapt to new situations and that is just what these immigrants did. Finding themselves in a new land where the availability and cost of ingredients were very different from what they had found at home, they had to improvise. And these modifications were often reflected in the dishes that were cooked. That is why an Irish-American might have a very different idea of what “traditional Irish” food is. Soda Bread is a great example of that phenomena, as is Corned Beef (shock…horror…but more on that later). I love traditional Irish Soda Bread and make it myself all the time. I also like the thoroughly Americanized versions, for the most part…. (Cue the ominous sounding music here)
Once in America the flour used in soda bread became almost exclusively white, butter was not only slathered over the slices of bread but was also added into the dough, as was sugar, eggs, raisins and often caraway seeds. I have to stop right here and say that while I’m ok with all of the other modifications to this bread, I HATE caraway seeds in my soda bread. I’m actually glad you can’t see the face I’m making right now, but it is a cross between disgust and outrage. Wait…perhaps I do have a picture that I can share that will convey my feelings adequately…
I’m serious, I don’t know how folks could ruin perfectly good bread with those dastardly little seeds. Just say NO! Ahem…So back to these lovely Americanized Irish Soda Bread Muffins we have here. Gone is the big round soda bread loaf, replaced with perfect serving sized muffins. Needless to say, there are no caraway seeds, but there are Irish Whiskey plumped currants, as well as a blend of All-purpose flour and King Arthur Irish Wholemeal flour, which gives them a pleasant toothsome texture over those made with white flour alone. Though if you don’t have Irish Wholemeal flour, you could use regular whole meal flour, or just use 2 1/4 cups of all-purpose in a pinch. The muffins are just perfect with a nice cup of tea, moist, tender, slightly sweet, but not too sweet. Just enough to satisfy any tea time cravings. They are delicious all on their own, with a bit of jam spread over the top, or my favourite…covered with lashings of butter! Certainly a crowd pleaser for your St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
Irish Soda Bread Muffins
recipe slightly adapted from: King Arthur Flour
- 1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 ounces, 177 grams) All purpose flour
- 3/4 cup (3 ounces, 85 grams) King Arthur Irish Wholemeal flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup (2 5/8 ounces, 74 grams) granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces, 170 grams) currants (first choice) or raisins
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup (8 ounces, 227 grams) buttermilk yogurt, or sour cream
- 6 tablespoons (3 ounces, 85 grams) butter, melted; or 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- sparkling white sugar, for topping
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a standard muffin pan; or line with papers, and grease the papers.
Place currants/raisins in bowl and cover with boiling water, adding 1 tablespoon irish whiskey to the mix if you’re feeling a bit devilish. Let raisins steep for about 10 minutes to plump. Thoroughly drain before incorporating into the batter.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk (or equivalent) and melted butter (or equivalent).
Quickly and gently combine the dry and wet ingredients; honestly, this won’t take more than a few stirs with a bowl scraper or large spoon. As soon as everything is evenly moistened, quickly and gently fold in the plumped currants or raisins and then quit; further stirring will cause the muffins to be tough.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, filling the cups about 3/4 full; the stiff batter will look mounded in the cups. Top with sparkling white sugar, if desired.
Bake the muffins for 20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove them from the oven. Tip the muffins in the pan, so their bottoms don’t get soggy. Wait 5 minutes, then transfer the muffins to a rack to cool. Serve them plain, or with butter and/or jam.
Irish Soda Bread Muffins brought to you by: Runcible Eats (www.leaandjay.com)