Will was the husband of my oldest and dearest friend, but he was so much more: father, son, brother, friend, leader, coach, athlete, outdoorsman, wicked handy handyman, drinking buddy and all-around good guy. One of the best good guys I will ever have the pleasure to have known.
But he was also one more thing that was very, very important to him: Will was Irish.
So St. Patrick's Day was a big deal. And one of the ways he made it a big deal was to bake Irish soda bread with his sons every year.
I know his boys are continuing the tradition this year. I wish I lived closer to them so I could lend a hand. Since I don't, I'm making it my own annual tradition, too, to honor Will's memory and remember his all-around-good-guyness.
I can't tell you where his recipe (below) came from but it's easy and it's good.
So today, bake an Irish soda bread and wash it down with a beer (preferably a Fat Tire) ... for Will.
Will's Irish Soda Bread
(makes one large loaf)
4 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups raisins
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix the first five ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in the butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (I find the best way to do this is by using your hands). Add seeds and raisins.
In a small bowl, beat the eggs -- remove one tablespoon and set aside. Mix buttermilk into the egg mixture; stir into the flour mixture until moistened (dough will be sticky).
Turn dough out on to a well-floured surface. With floured hands, knead about 10 strokes to mix thoroughly. Shape dough into ball and place into a greased, 2-quart round casserole. In the center of the ball, cut a 4-inch cross about 1/4-inch deep. Brush dough with reserved egg.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour and 20 minutes (depending on the accuracy of your oven) or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in casserole on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from casserole and cool completely on wire rack.
Note: Because the recipe is so basic, you can really customize Irish soda bread. If you want to use it as more of a dinner bread, definitely add the caraway seeds. If you'd rather eat it for breakfast, try substituting currants or dried cranberries for the raisins and orange zest for the caraway seeds.