Introduction: Cranberry Oatmeal Walnut Irish Soda Bread

About: I love to spend time in the kitchen to relax and feed those I love with great eats and treats.

Looking for a way to jazz up traditional Irish Soda Bread for our St. Patrick's Day meal, I happened upon a recipe for Oatmeal Walnut Irish Soda Bread from Cook's Illustrated, I made it a couple times but always dreaded it because the dough seemed way too dry it was almost impossible to get it to come together. I modified the recipe; removing some of the oats and flour, added cinnamon, a bit more sugar, and cranberries. I freely admit this is a far stretch from traditional soda bread, but it's delicious!

It's nice and hearty from the oats and wheat flour, has a nice tang from buttermilk, nutty, a bit crunchy with the nuts and crust, but a tender crumb. Cinnamon brings a nice warmth, and slight sweetness from sugar and cranberries, all make for a well balanced loaf.

Since our corned beef and cabbage meal is rich, fatty, and a bit spicy from horseradish cream sauce, I wanted the bread to be a bit sweet and crunchy.

Since this isn't a yeasted bread, it doesn't take all day to make. The longest parts are that the oats need to soak for one hour, it bakes about 50 minutes, and needs to about 40 minutes to cool. The rest of the steps are simple, and easily done by hand.

This bread deserves to be more than a St. Patrick's Day side dish! It's a great breakfast bread, it's perfection when toasted and buttered, I'd imagine some cinnamon sugar would only improve things. Would go very well with some eggs, bacon/sausage and potatoes. It's a bit crumbly to use as a sandwich bread, but it's really so good on its own that it doesn't need much else. I do try to "make it honest" by using Kerrygold Irish salted butter on it!

Whether you're looking to level up your traditional Irish Soda Bread, or just want to make an easy, tasty loaf, I hope you'll try Cranberry Oatmeal Walnut Irish Soda Bread soon, enjoy!

Makes 1 loaf

Recipe inspired by Cook's Illustrated Magazine Oatmeal Walnut Irish Soda Bread, March 1997.

Step 1: Gather Ingredients

You'll need:

2 cups rolled oats, divided
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 cup stone-ground whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar (I used dark, either works)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted in a pan over medium heat, stirring, until just fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes
1/2 cup dried cranberries, soaked and drained

Step 2: Prepare Ingredients

Soak 1 1/2 cups rolled oats in buttermilk for 1 hour (I soaked mine for 2 hours, I think as long as they're soaked an hour, they can be soaked longer).

At the same time, I toast and chop the walnuts and soak the cranberries. To soak cranberries, put 1/2 cup in a microwave safe bowl, add 1-2 tablespoons water, cover with plastic wrap and microwave for one minute. Let rest a few minutes, drain, and set aside to cool.

Step 3: Prepare Dough

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. If you want to bake on a Baking Steel, or stone, preheat that as well.

Whisk flours, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, cream of tartar, remaining 1/2 cup rolled oats, and salt in large bowl. Work softened butter into dry ingredients with a pastry blender, or fork, until texture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add buttermilk-soaked oats, toasted walnuts, and cranberries and stir with a fork just until dough begins to come together.

Turn out onto flour-coated work surface; knead until dough just becomes cohesive and bumpy, 12 to 14 turns. (Do not knead until dough is smooth, or bread will be tough.)

Depending on any number of factors; humidity, temperature, how you measured your ingredients, the dough may need more, or less, flour to come together. It may even need more buttermilk if it's too dry. The dough should feel slightly tacky, but be able to shape into a loaf without covering all your fingers in dough.

Pat dough into a loaf about 8 inches in diameter and 3 inches high; you can make it round shaped if you prefer, I just think a loaf yields more even slices. Because you aren't using a bread pan, and this isn't a yeasted dough, the soda bread will flatten a bit during baking.

Cut a cross, leaving an inch near each border, 1/2-3/4 inch deep into the bread. While it's traditional, it also helps the center of the bread cook through.

Step 4: Bake Bread

Place on greased, or parchment-lined, baking sheet or in cast-iron pot. If using a baking steel, or stone, transfer the loaf to a sheet of parchment, make it long enough you can lift it in and out of your oven.

Bake until golden brown and a skewer inserted into center of loaf comes out clean or internal temperature reaches 190 degrees, 45 to 55 minutes.

Remove from oven and brush with melted butter; cool to room temperature, 30 to 40 minutes. Slice and serve, preferably with some salted Irish butter.

Well wrapped in foil, Cranberry Oatmeal Walnut Irish Soda Bread will last a couple days at room temperature, it's delightful when toasted and buttered.

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