I love making Irish Soda Bread. It doesn't need any eggs, it goes together quickly, it is free form and looks very artisanal without trying, and it is delicious warm or cold. Fresh out of the oven (and cooled only slightly), it is heavenly.
So the twist this time was to make Pecan Bacon Maple Irish Soda Bread. Perhaps that makes it more Southern than Irish, but the original recipe is from my very Irish Aunt May, so I'm calling it that even with the additions.
The bacon was the star here, followed by the pecans. Who can hate bacon combined with pecans? The maple flavor was a harmonious background flavor, less assertive than I had thought it would be given that I used a full 1/2 cup! The buttermilk gave it moistness and a bit of a tang. I had to hide 3/4 of the loaf so that Sweetie wouldn't gobble it all up, it was that good! You don't need any additional butter, but it is hard to resist slathering on some. If you made up some maple butter that would be a grand addition.
The key to success with this recipe is to handle things gently, especially the dough once the liquid has been added. The mass of dough going into the oven looks like it barely holds together, but it bakes up as a nice craggy loaf with a tender interior. Too much or too firm handling will give you something more akin to a brick, so resist making a nice, neat loaf, OK?
Makes one large loaf
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
8 oz. (2 sticks) cold butter, in thin slices
½ cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup cooked, crumbled bacon
½ cup maple syrup
2 cups buttermilk
Sift the dry ingredients over the butter and cut in well with a fork or pastry blender. Add nuts and bacon; mix in gently but well. Add the maple syrup to the buttermilk and make a well in the dry ingredients. Pour in the buttermilk mixture, then mix just until moist - don’t over handle.
Some dry stuff is OK but the dough should be sticky.
Pat into a round on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Cut a cross on top. Bake 45 minutes at 3500 F. Cool a bit before slicing.
Good with a spread made of softened butter and maple syrup, whipped together.