I believe this is the first time I've recognized St. Patrick's Day by baking something instead of drinking something. Previous celebrations took place in various drinking establishments, the best being a little country bar just north of Milwaukee actually owned by an Irishman and not some dork wearing a plastic green hat and calling himself "O'Lucas" all night. But hanging out at Finbar's wasn't about getting drunk. You were there with friends, having a great time, enjoying the atmosphere of real Irish music and food.
Now one of the things you may get during an Irish meal is a couple of pieces of soda bread. This bread is dense but tasty and requires few ingredients and just a little bit of time to make. The leavening is performed by the reaction between buttermilk and baking soda so there's no yeast and no waiting for the dough to rise. I have to admit I was impressed how much this bread rose too. Many muffins use the same buttermilk-baking soda reaction but they don't double in height like this bread did (near the end off baking it came dangerously close to the rack above it).
Irish Dairy Bread
from page 122 of the The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook
Makes one 9-inch loaf
4 cups (17 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 375° F and prepare a baking sheet or cast-iron pot by lightly flouring it.
In a large bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt and whisk together thoroughly. Add the butter and distribute the butter evenly through the flour mixture. Create a hole in the center of the flour and pour the buttermilk into it. Stir to combine the ingredients.
Take the dough out of the bowl and knead on a lightly floured surface. Once the dough comes together, form a ball and then press down until it is about 1.5 to 2 inches thick. Cut an "X" into the top and place in the pan. If you are using a cast-iron pot with a lid, put the lid on. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes (for baking sheet) to 40 minutes (for cast-iron pot). Once done, cool on a wire rack. Do not cut until completely cooled.
I've submitted this to Zorra of 1x umrühren bitte and her St. Pat's Day: Green or Irish round-up. I found this blog when I first started reading food blogs, it always has great pictures of bread which I imagine probably taste pretty good too. She also has many of these events, with my favorite, the culinary Advent calender (2005 and 2006).