I waded through rainy streets and crowds of St. Patrick's Day revelers yesterday on my way to meet my friend Joanna. Our conversation focused on food, as it often does, and she mentioned this brown butter soda bread recipe as one of her favorites. In the weeks leading up to this holiday each year, I encounter half a dozen different Irish soda bread recipes earnestly claiming to be the most authentic. I liked the idea of adding rosemary, fresh black pepper and browned butter to this quick bread base to create a decidedly non-traditional version.
The end result of the recipe was wonderful. A few notes: I found that my dough was quite wet after following the instructions, so I ended up adding about half a cup more flour than the original recipe calls for. Be sure to have a some extra flour on hand so that you can get the texture just right. You want a moist dough that just comes together in your hands. I didn't knead this bread at all. I simply mixed the dough in the bowl until it formed a smooth ball and then formed the loaves. Lastly, I decided not to spend the money on fresh rosemary and instead used about half a teaspoon of powdered Spanish rosemary leaves. Definitely use fresh if you prefer.
Rosemary, Black Pepper & Brown Butter Soda Bread
Adapted from Bon Appetit
1/4 C butter
3 1/2 C flour, plus 1/2 C
1/2 C old-fashioned oats
1 Tbl sugar
1/2 tsp powdered rosemary (or 1 Tbl fresh, chopped)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1 3/4 C buttermilk
Place a baking stone in your oven and preheat oven to 375F. (Don't worry if you don't have a baking stone, you can simply use an ungreased baking sheet. Don't place it in the oven as it heats. If you'd like a baking stone, check out this great post on making your own for $3.)
Melt butter in skillet over medium heat and cook until golden brown and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the buttermilk and butter. Mix well and add the buttermilk and butter. Mix until the dough comes together in a smooth ball. Add more flour if you need it (I did). Form dough into two rounds with your hands and transfer to the baking stone or baking sheet. Using a sharp knife, cut an "X" in the top of each loaf - about 1/2 an inch deep.
Bake until breads are a deep golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center -- about 45 minutes. Allow to cool for a least 30 minutes before slicing. Serve with plenty of high quality butter.