Published March 1, 1997.
For bread with a moist, flavorful crumb and a crisp, tender crust, use both cake flour and all-purpose flour and go light on the buttermilk.
Most Americans are familiar with American-style Irish soda bread, which adds eggs, butter, and sugar along with caraway seeds, raisins, and a multitude of other flavorings to the traditional Irish recipe.
"Irish" Irish soda bread is less sweet and more simple than most American versions, usually calling only for flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. We wanted to try our hand at this more authentic version of the bread. With its velvety crumb and rough-textured, crunchy crust, it is versatile enough to serve with butter and jam for breakfast, for sandwiches at lunch, and alongside the evening meal.
Our first tests focused on flour. A loaf made with all-purpose flour produced a doughy, heavy bread with a thick crust. To soften the crumb, we added some cake flour to the mix, and this made a difference. (It also made historical sense. Because of Ireland's climate, the wheat grown there is a soft, low-protein variety more similar to cake flour than to American all-purpose, which is relatively high in protein.) A version made with all cake flour, however, was heavy and compact. A ratio of 3 cups all-purpose to 1 cup cake flour proved best. With only the four basic ingredients of flour, buttermilk, baking soda, and salt, our bread was lacking in flavor and still a little tough; we turned to sugar and butter. Because traditionally very small amounts of butter and sugar are sometimes added to Irish soda bread, we felt we could proceed with caution. Two tablespoons sugar and a total of 3 tablespoons butter were added. The sugar added flavor without making the bread sweet, and the butter softened the dough just enough with out making it overly rich.list of recipes