So, how was your St. Patrick’s Day?  Growing up in Georgia, with its huge Anglo / Irish / Scottish population, I have always experienced March 17th being surrounded by people wearing kelly green, sporting shamrocks and decorated with buttons saying “Kiss Me I’m Irish.”  Heck, one year in college,  my roommate, a few friends and I road-tripped to Savannah for its rockin’ St. Pat’s celebration – complete with the river dyed green to match the beer. 

Here in London … well … it’s seen as a reason to drink Guinness, but not much else (which is probably understandable).  Last Thursday came and went without feeling like I was lost in a sea of green when I was walking in a crowd.  The newspapers weren’t wall-to-wall with recipes for corned beef and cabbage.  There were no marathons of “The Quiet Man” on the movie channel.  (I think that’s what I miss the most – I love that movie!)

Anyway, last week, I mentioned that a friend and I have started a weekly “bake-&-b*tch” session, where we try out different bread recipes.  Well, this week, we decided to make something featured on Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s last series: Guinness + cheddar cheese + soda bread = one heckuva way to observe St. Pat’s!  The only thing is that this is a very hearty bread – in some ways, it’s almost more optimal for the autumn than it is for the spring.  But, while it would be great with a hot, savory stew, chunks of this bread would be equally nice with a salad of baby greens, shards of cheese and a mustard vinaigrette.

Like all soda breads, this uses baking powder rather than yeast as its leavening agent, so always remember to work quickly once you add the liquids to the dry ingredients!

Guinness, Cheddar and Apple Soda Bread

  • 1 3/4 cup white bread flour
  • 1 3/4 cup whole meal
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 3 rounded tsp baking powder
  • 1 large sweet apple, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar + more to scatter over the top
  • 1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 cup + 1 Tbsp Guinness (liquid, not the head)
  • 1 cup + 1 Tbsp buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 425 F and prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper and lightly flouring it.  In a large bowl, toss together the flours, oats, salt and baking powder.  Add the apple and cheddar and toss to incorporate.  In a smaller bowl, mix the oil, buttermilk and Guinness, stirring to thoroughly combine before pouring into the dry mixture.  Use a spoon to stir everything together until it’s just incorporated – just like making a cake or cookies, you don’t want to overstir and overwork the flour.  Tip the dough onto your floured baking sheet and form it into a round, then top with the remaining cheddar and bake for 35-40 minutes until it’s a gorgeous dark brown, then cool completely on a wire rack.  This is one of those breads that tastes better cooled than hot, so, no matter how tempting it is, let it cool before ripping into it!