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Cherry Walnut Soda Bread

I come from an Italian and Greek family. We celebrate a lot of things with a lot of food.

But, here comes St. Patrick’s Day. The Dear One is Irish (mostly) and can trace his roots back to Town someplace in the County something. Totally lost in translation for me.

Sadly, this is what I know about being Irish …

Irish Whisky
Guinness (Steak & Guinness Pie)
Uncle Nicky’s Irish Cream
Irish Stew
Beer
St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NYC
LeprechaunS

I’m sure there are other things … but the knowledge is SERIOUSLY limited.

I want to make something special for the Dear One. Celebrate his heritage a wee bit.

I opened the Boston Globe and there was a recipe from Lisa Yockelson of Baking Style Diary for a cherry and walnuts soda bread. This is the ticket.

No blarney, this was fantastic and easy … and gone. Great combination of favorite flavors. This could make even the least Irish amongst us to feel a bit green on St. Patrick’s Day!

  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, preferably fine sea salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into teaspoon-size chunks
  • 1 egg plus 1 extra yolk
  • ½ cup buttermilk, or more if needed
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup dried Montmorency cherries
  • ⅔ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

NOTE: Didn’t have buttermilk. Didn’t want to buy a gigantic container of buttermilk for a mere 1/2 cup. I do, however, keep a container of buttermilk powder in the fridge for just such emergencies. Worked like a charm! The powder goes in with the dry ingredients and you add water to the wet ingredients. Not sure how it works – magic, I’m sure – but it does!

Set the oven at 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar to blend them.

Scatter the butter over the flour mixture. Using a pastry blender or two blunt knives, cut the fat into the flour until it is reduced to pea-size bits. Using your fingertips, lightly crumble the mixture for 1 minute to reduce the butter into small flakes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk, buttermilk, and vanilla. Pour the egg mixture over the flour mixture. Scatter the cherries and walnuts on top. With a rubber spatula, stir to form a dense but cohesive mixture to bring the dough together. If necessary, add more buttermilk, 1 teaspoon at a time. Knead the dough lightly and briefly in the bowl for half a minute.

Turn the dough out onto the counter. Form it into a plump ball about 5½ to 6 inches in diameter. Place the ball on the baking sheet and use a sharp paring knife to slash a shallow “X” in the top.

Bake the round for 45 to 50 minutes, or until set and golden on top. Using two spatulas, carefully transfer the bread from the parchment paper to a wire rack to cool completely.

Use a serrated knife to cut into slices.

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