Each year around St. Patrick’s Day I take the opportunity that the annual holiday provides to experiment with a different type of Irish Soda Bread. It seems there is an infinite number of adaptations and spins you can put on the traditional Irish bread. I started out with a traditional, albeit a bit Americanized, version of Irish Soda Bread, and then went on to make Irish Soda Bread Scones and Irish Brown Bread, all of which have been incredibly delicious. This year, I started my search for something different, and before long my eyes were fixated on a recipe that threw Irish whiskey into the mix. Not only do you steep the raisins for the bread in whiskey, but you also made a whiskey butter to serve alongside the bread. Hold the phone. My search stopped, I grabbed the bottle of Jameson on the liquor shelf, and got down to business.
The two key components to the whiskey aspect of this Irish Whiskey Soda Bread are the whiskey-soaked raisins and the whiskey butter. First, let’s talk the raisins. While you can soak them for as little as 30 minutes or an hour, things only get better the longer you let them soak. I let mine go for quite a few hours and the result was incredibly plump raisins, thanks to the long infusion of Jameson.
When you drain the raisins, save the whiskey that you soaked them in and use that to get to work on your whiskey butter. The butter is very simple to make – you combine a little of the leftover whiskey and some sugar in the microwave, then let it cool down. Once cool, you blend the mixture into room temperature butter to completely combine. You can form the butter into a “stick” of butter or store in a plastic container or ramekin.
Hello Jameson-infused butter. This is the perfect complement to the Irish soda bread – it will certainly give your breakfast a kick!
I have always enjoyed the combination of all-purpose and whole wheat flour in Irish soda breads, as I feel it gives the bread an extra bit of texture and heartiness, and the same holds true for this bread. Not only do I love that the raisins in this bread are whiskey-soaked, but I love how many of them there are. No skimping on the raisins here! You get a mouthful in each and every bite. I know many of you might be wondering how prominent the whiskey flavor actually is here. The bread, on its own, does not have a whiskey flavor. You get a bit of it from the raisins, but probably a 1 to 2 on a scale from 1 to 10. The real kick comes from the butter. It is no doubt a whiskey-infused butter and the flavor comes through loud and clear. I think a moderate smear of the butter on the warm butter is absolutely spectacular and such a wonderful combination of flavors, but if you’re not wanting in-your-face whiskey flavor, you might want to skip the butter. (If you want to eliminate whiskey altogether, you can soak the raisins in water to get them to plump up a bit before you mix them into the bread. But unless you can’t have alcohol for religious or medical reasons, I strongly recommend the whiskey. It is a holiday, after all :))
So crack open that bottle of Jameson, gather some raisins, and get yourself ready for one heck of a breakfast treat. Or lunch. Or a snack. Or dessert. Whenever you decide to eat it, you are definitely in for a real treat. We blew through this in no time, and I have a feeling you will, too.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
Combine the raisins and whiskey in a small saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Once it reaches a simmer, remove from heat, cover, and steep for at least 1 hour. When finished, drain the raisins and reserve the whiskey to use in the whiskey butter.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, and salt. Use a pastry blender or your finger tips to blend the butter into the flour mixture until coarse crumbs are formed. Most of the butter should be about the size of small peas, with a few larger pieces throughout. Stir in the whiskey-soaked raisins. With a wooden spoon, stir in the buttermilk just until the dry ingredients are moistened and the dough comes together.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead lightly until the dough is smooth, but still slightly sticky. Use as little extra flour as necessary to knead the dough.
Pat the dough into a 6-inch circle. Place the dough circle onto the prepared baking sheet and score the top of the dough ½-inch deep to form a cross.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer reads 190 degrees F in the center of the loaf. Remove to a cooling rack. If you plan to serve the bread warm, you can cover it with a towel to keep it warm. Any leftover bread can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.
While the bread bakes, prepare the Irish Whiskey Butter. Microwave the whiskey and sugar together for 20 seconds, and then allow to cool to room temperature. Place the softened butter in a medium bowl, and beat in the whiskey mixture a little at a time, until completely incorporated. You can place the butter in an airtight container or wrap into a log with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.