Soda bread, Irish or otherwise, is a perfect introduction to homemade bread-making because minimal time and effort are required to produce a golden, aromatic loaf; no special equipment is needed; and most ingredients can be found in the pantry.
In its simplest form, Irish soda bread is a mixture of flour, baking soda, buttermilk and salt. This recipe amps up flavors with the addition of orange zest, fennel seeds and a heap of dried currants plumped with aromatic whiskey. San Diego's own Henebery rye whiskey is used here, but any whiskey will work (especially Irish whiskey).
Skillet Soda Bread
1 cup dried currants
1/4 cup whiskey
4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cubed, plus more for greasing the skillet
4 cups flour, plus more for sprinkling 1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. fine grain sea salt
1 3/4 cup buttermilk (shake the carton and then measure), plus more for brushing
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. orange zest
1 tbsp. fennel seeds
Get prepped. Place currants in a small bowl with the whiskey and let sit for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Lightly grease an 8-inch cast iron skillet with butter.
Dough works. In a large bowl, whisk together 4 cups flour, sugar, baking soda and sea salt. Using your fingertips, work 4 tablespoons cubed butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a
medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg and orange zest. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Don't overmix. Stir in the currants with whiskey and fennel seeds.
Shape and bake. Preheat an oven to 400°F, and place a rack in the middle position. Scrape dough out onto a floured work surface. The dough will be wet. Sprinkle dough with flour and knead a
couple times to form a round loaf, adding more flour as needed if the dough sticks. Place the loaf in the prepared skillet, then, using a sharp knife, score an "X" shape into top of dough, about 1 1/2 inches deep. Brush the top of the loaf with buttermilk. Bake until the top of the bread is golden brown, and a skewer inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean (40 - 45 minutes). Transfer the loaf to a cooling rack and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.