A favorite recipe from a favorite new cookbook that was a gift from a favorite friend puts this Irish Soda Bread with currants, caraway seeds and orange zest at the top of my heap.

In the past, I have sung the praises of Grand Central Bakery.  When I visit my best pal in Portland, Oregon I always find myself at the bakery ordering a cup fragrant, locally roasted coffee and about 10 other treats from the menu.  For Christmas, my bestie proved that she knows me well by gifting me the Grand Central Bakery’s new cookbook.  Since their bakeries are only on the West Coast, I can now get a little fix of Grand Central goodies in my own Chicago kitchen.

I am always suspicious about restaurants that are willing to print all their recipes and give away their secrets.  Did they leave just one ingredient out?  Did they skip an essential step to ensure we can’t COMPLETELY replicate their yumminess?  Or do they count on the fact that we just prefer them doing the work and enjoying the experience enough to continue buying their treats?

In the case of this Irish Soda Bread, Grand Central seems to not only have given us the true recipe but also pages of hints, tips and tricks on baking and ingredients so we can make them just right.  Thank you Grand Central!  I will still sit at your long, wooden table and eat YOUR Irish Soda Bread whenever I find myself in Portland.  But until then… I will be smiling ear to ear that I have a little taste of you in Chicago.

These are best eaten the day you make them so give a few to neighbors or co-workers.  Your unexpected good deed will surely lift their spirits.

Irish Soda Bread from Grand Central Bakery
Makes 8 large pieces.

4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped orange zest
3/4 cup currants
3/4 cup cold, unsalted butter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
Egg wash

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line a  baking sheet with parchment paper.  Measure the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl with high sides or the bowl of stand mixer and whisk to combine.  Stir in the caraway seeds, orange zest and currents.

Dice the butter into 1/2 inch cubes.  Use your hands or the paddle attachment of the stand mixer on low speed to blend the butter into dry ingredients until the texture becomes mealy.  If you want to finish baking the soda bread the next day, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill overnight; otherwise proceed with the recipe.

Add 3/4 cup of the buttermilk at once, mixing just until the dough comes together, 30-35 seconds.  Scrape the bottom and sides to incorporate dry ingredients, then stir in enough buttermilk to bring the dough together.  You may have buttermilk leftover.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 2 chunks.  Gently shape the chunks into domed disks and score each one into quarters.  Place on the prepared pan and brush liberally with egg wash (1 egg, 1 tablespoon water, pinch of salt whisked all together).

Bake for 30-35 minutes rotating the pan halfway through the baking time.  The soda bread should be shiny and golden brown.  To serve, cut or pull the disks apart where they were scored.