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Darina Allen’s Irish Soda Bread

Darina Allen is Ireland’s best-known chef. She is the owner of the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, County Cork, Ireland. An indefatigable teacher, she is also a food writer, newspaper columnist, cookbook author and television presenter. Her domain, the world-renowned cookery school, is the only one in the world located in the middle of its own 100-acre organic farm.

In this pastoral setting, students have access to the finest and freshest ingredients of guaranteed quality and variety – for example, more than 40 different types of tomatoes are grown on the farm. All the school’s buildings, including the state-of-the-art kitchens, the dining room, lecture rooms, library and self-catering accommodation are located in delightful former farm buildings.

In New York last year, Darina demonstrated the making of Irish soda bread to leading national magazine food editors as the star of Kerrygold’s annual St. Patrick’s Day media event. While making soda bread wasn’t news to this expert group, Darina’s technique certainly was. Using an outstretched hand and a circular motion, Darina quickly and efficiently gathered the dry and wet ingredients in the bowl to form a dough in less than five minutes.

So taken were all of us at Kerrygold with this technique, that we asked Darina to demonstrate the recipe on video to share with you. Here it is!

You can almost smell the bread when it comes out of the oven, and when Darina slathers on the Kerrygold Irish butter to melt on the still-warm slice, we guarantee mouths will water! The technique is so quick and easy, you’ll be inspired to head to your kitchen and start baking.

This recipe from Darina Allen is a traditional soda bread that tastes of Ireland, home and rainy Sunday mornings spent in front of the fire.

Ingredients:
1 pound all-purpose flour (about 3 1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
13 to 16 ounces buttermilk (depending on the consistency of the buttermilk)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Mix the flours in a large wide bowl, add the salt and sieved baking soda. Lift the flour up with your fingers to distribute the salt and baking soda.

Make a well in the center and pour in all the buttermilk. With your fingers stiff and outstretched, stir in a circular movement from the center to the outside of the bowl in ever increasing concentric circles. When you reach the outside of the bowl, seconds later the dough should be made.

Sprinkle a little flour on the worktop. Turn the dough out onto the floured worktop. (Fill the bowl with cold water so it will be easy to wash later.)

Sprinkle a little flour on your hands. Gently tidy the dough around the edges and transfer to oven tray. Tuck the edges underneath with your hand; gently pat the dough with your fingers into a loaf about 1 1/2-inch thick. Now wash and dry your hands.

Cut a deep cross into the bread (this is called ‘blessing the bread’ and then prick it in the center of the four sections to let the fairies out of the bread).

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes then turn the oven down to 400°F for a further 15 or 20 minutes. Turn the bread upside down and cook for a further 5 to 10 minutes until cooked (the bottom should sound hollow when tapped). Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 1 loaf.

Variations:
Brown Soda Bread: Replace half the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour.

Dubliner Soda Bread: Before baking, brush loaf with egg wash (egg beaten with a little milk) and sprinkle with shredded Dubliner cheese.

Cheese Scones: After the soda bread has been shaped, flatten it out and cut into pieces to form scones. Brush tops with egg wash (egg beaten with a little milk), dip tops into shredded Dubliner cheese and bake, cheese-side up, 10 minutes in a 450° F oven; cook on wire rack.

Recipe by Darina Allen