Until recently, I haven't spent much cooking time delving into my Irish and Scottish heritage. I learned to make Irish soda bread a few years ago and I have found a great recipe for Irish beef stew, and I love Scottish baking treats such as shortbread and scones, but that's really been the extent of it. While I don't plan to ever make haggis or become a whisky aficionado, I do want to expand my cooking horizons. So this year Mom and I decided to try some other Irish foods, in particular Irish Freckle Bread. Mom did the research and found a recipe, and I made it for our St. Patrick's Day dinner last week. I'm a little late posting, but I'm still getting caught up after being on vacation.
This is a potato bread, an enriched dough with a soft texture, and the "freckles" come from raisin, currants, chopped dates, cranberries, or anything similar that you can add. The loaf is made by rolling the dough into eight balls, then letting it rise and bake in a 10-inch springform pan. When I first put the dough balls into the pan, I thought there was no way I needed a pan that large, but I let it go to see what would happen. Boy, am I glad I did! The dough rose a bit during the rising time, but it ballooned in the oven and went over the top of the pan, forming a beautiful crown.
It's an easy dough to knead by hand, though you can use a stand mixer and dough hook if you wish. We enjoyed it warm at dinner with fresh butter from the farmers' market, and then toasted leftover slices for breakfast the next morning. The loaf kept well for a couple days sealed in a plastic bag. We enjoyed it and it's an easy bread I would make again, though I want to experiment with a smaller version, perhaps making 16 dough balls instead of 8 and using two smaller springform pans. The original recipe calls for a package of active dry yeast, but we used instant yeast since that's what we keep on hand. I did reduce the amount of yeast since the instant would work faster, though perhaps I could have cut back some more. Remember instant yeast generally does not require proofing, so add it to the dry ingredients.
The very talented Susan of Wild Yeast is hosting Bread Baking Day this month, and the theme is celebrations or holidays. This is definitely a bread for a celebration, though treating yourself to it more often is still a good thing! Make sure you check out the round-up when it's posted on or around April 5.
Irish Freckle Bread
- small pot with lid
- large mixing bowl or stand mixer with dough hook attachment
- large bowl, lightly coated with cooking spray
- 10-inch springform pan, lightly coated with cooking spray
- 1 small potato (peeled and cut into quarters)
- 1 cup water
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast (or 1 package ¼ ounce active dry yeast)
- 8 tablespoons sugar
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (melted)
- 2 eggs
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (divided)
- 1 cup raisins (currants, cranberries, or other small fruit)
- Put the pieces of potato in the small pot, and add enough water to cover the potato. With the lid on, bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium and cook until fork tender. Remove the potato pieces, reserving the water. Mash the potato so that you have no lumps and measure ¼ cup of the potato. Measure 1 cup of the potato water. If you have less than 1 cup of water, add enough to make 1 cup. Water should be warm, about 110° to 115° F.
- In the large mixing bowl, add the water, butter, eggs, potatoes, salt, sugar, 2 cups flour, and the yeast. Mix until smooth. Stir in the raisins and just enough remaining flour to form a soft dough, not dry. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in the lightly greased bowl and spritz some cooking spray on the top of the dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and divide into eight pieces. Shape each piece into a ball. Place dough balls in the greased 10-inch springform pan. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.
- While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350° F/175° C.
- Uncover the risen dough and place the pan in the preheated oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove sides of pan. Place bread on a wire rack to cool.
More Festive Breads