St. Patrick's Day is obviously a huge deal in Chicago. But it's easy to forget that there are other ways to celebrate than green beer, parades, a green river, and corned beef. Soda bread for instance, which you can make and enjoy in the warmth of your own home, without having to brave boisterous bar and pub crowds.
This version of the self-rising bread from Christopher Kimball's Milk Street is brightened by orange juice and zest as well as dried cranberries, and sweetened slightly by white chocolate chunks.
Orange Cranberry Soda Bread with White Chocolate Chunks
This is not your traditional Irish soda bread. The crumb is fragrant with orange zest and studded with tangy dried cranberries plus bits of creamy white chocolate that add the perfect amount of sweetness. We adapted the recipe from “Rising Hope” by Rachel Stonehouse and Kaila H. Johnson, both members of the team at London’s Luminary Bakery, a social enterprise that supports disadvantaged women by teaching them baking skills. The bread is the creation of Aine, the former head baker at Luminary Bakery. The rustic loaf is special enough for a holiday breakfast or brunch, but it comes together so quickly and easily that it’s great at any time of the year.
Don’t chop the white chocolate into tiny bits. Keep the pieces chunky—roughly 1⁄2 inch—otherwise they will simply disappear into the crumb. Also, don’t knead the dough as if it was a yeasted dough. Handle it gently, as if making biscuits or scones. A light, gentle touch helps ensure a tender crumb.
210 g (1 1/2 cups) dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1 tbsp grated orange zest, plus 2 tbsp orange juice
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
325 g (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
105 g (3/4 cup) whole-wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp table salt
113 g (4 oz) white chocolate, chopped into 1⁄2-inch chunks
1. Heat the oven to 400°F with a rack in the middle position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with kitchen parchment. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, stir together the cranberries and orange juice. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 1 minute, stirring once halfway through. Stir again, then set aside until cooled to room temperature. In a liquid measuring cup, stir together the orange zest and buttermilk.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together both flours, the baking soda, and salt. Add the cooled cranberries and the white chocolate; toss until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Make a well in the middle of the mixture and pour in the buttermilk. Using a silicone spatula, fold the buttermilk into the flour mixture until a rough, shaggy dough forms; it’s fine if the dough still shows some dry, floury patches.
3. Lightly flour the counter and turn the dough out onto it. Using your hands and a metal bench scraper, gently and lightly fold the dough a few times just until cohesive; do not knead it. Shape the dough into a ball and, using the bench scraper to loosen it from the counter, transfer it to the prepared baking sheet. Lightly dust the top with flour. Using a serrated knife, score an X into the top of the dough, cutting about 3⁄4 inch deep.
4. Bake until the bread is deep golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes; if turned upside down and tapped on the bottom, the loaf should sound hollow. Cool for about 10 minutes on the baking sheet on a wire rack, then transfer the loaf to the rack and cool for at least 1 hour before slicing.