Friday, March 15, 2013

Perfect for St. Patrick's Day...Irish Soda Bread Muffins from Baking for Friends

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, I’ve got a great muffin recipe to share with you! I thought about sharing a lovely green dessert…or even a Guinness-infused chocolate goodie…in honor of Shamrock Day, but I ultimately decided that my fellow food bloggers have those themes pretty much covered. I decided to make something a bit different. Tate’sBake Shop recently sent me a copy of their wonderful Baking for Friends cookbook and asked me to share a recipe this month.  I found a recipe for Irish Soda Bread Muffins that I just knew would be a perfect St. Patrick's Day breakfast or dinner roll. I’ll admit that I can be intimidated by yeast, rising times, and kneading dough. Needless to say, I don’t make a lot of homemade bread. This is an easy quick-bread version of Irish soda bread that’s lightly sweet and full of raisins. The fact that they’re portion controlled is another bonus in my book.

These muffins are ready for the oven in about 15 minutes, and they bake up perfectly. I love these muffins, and I hope you will too! The only change I made to Kathleen King’s original recipe was to sub raisins for the currants the recipe called for. I thought I had some currants in the kitchen, but I didn’t. The hardest part of this recipe is combining the chilled butter with the flour, but even that only takes a few minutes if you use a sturdy fork or hand-held pastry blender. You can add caraway seeds if you want. They’re optional, but they’ll give your muffins a more authentic Irish flavor. I don’t care for their flavor or texture, so I left them out. This recipe makes 10 regular-sized muffins. I took them to work earlier this week, and they were a big hit with my co-workers.

Irish Soda Bread Muffins
from Baking for Friends 

Step 1: Preheat oven to 375 and butter 10 muffin cups. Set aside while you make the batter. In a medium bowl, whisk together: 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1.5 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Add 4 tbs. (1/2 stick) cold butter that's been cut into 1/2-inch cubes. 

Step 2: Use a pastry blender of sturdy fork to cut the butter into the flour, until it resembles coarse meal with some pea-sized pieces. This will take 3-4 minutes, so be patient and keep working with it! Add 1/2 cup raisins (or currants) and 1 tsp. caraway seeds (optional). Toss to coat with the flour mixture. 

Step 3: Stir in 1 cup buttermilk just until combined into a stiff dough -- don't overmix! Portion 1/3 cup of the dough into each muffin cup. Using kitchen shears, cut an X into the top of each muffin. It will disappear during baking, but it's a great technique for creating crispy, craggy muffin tops. Bake until the muffins are golden-brown, about 20-25 minutes. Make sure to rotate the pan midway through the baking for even cooking. Remove from the pan and let the muffins cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm with butter.

I have to admit that I was pretty impressed with myself when I tasted a warm Irish Soda Bread Muffin slathered with a bit of butter. I’m not always a confident baker, but this recipe worked perfectly for me! As you can see, these muffins baked up golden brown, with a crisp exterior and a moist interior…I loved the contrast in textures. The sweetness in these muffins is very subtle, much like cornbread…and the raisins cook up plump and moist. I enjoyed one with a bit of strawberry sjam for breakfast the next morning, but I think they would also be fabulous served alongside a bowl of Guinness Beef Stew or other hearty soup. I can’t wait to make these muffins again…I still have a ton of buttermilk left! I hope you’ll whip up a batch of these muffins for your St. Patrick’s Day celebration tomorrow…and let me know what you think.

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