Taste Test Tuesday: Irish Soda Bread

Next week, local bakeries will sell more Irish soda bread than any other week of the year thanks to good Ol’ St. Patrick. If you’re not familiar, Irish soda bread is a quick bread, meaning it’s leavened with baking soda (hence the name), not yeast and studded with raisins or currants and, sometimes, caraway seeds.

Despite the somewhat formulaic ingredient list, we were surprised by how different the loaves were. Some were squat and dense, others were tall and light. There were crumbly, craggy loaves, and cakey loaves dusted with powdered sugar.

It seemed even our tasters fell into categories too. Traditionalists had specific ideas about sweetness and texture, while neophytes tended to prefer sweeter more cake-like loaves. There were a fair number of caraway-seed haters, but just as many people seemed to like the extra flavor contrast. There was even one editor who’s a self-professed raisin hater (don’t worry, she found a favorite loaf).

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We tested loaves from eight local bakeries and scored them on taste and texture, with a perfect score being 10. Our favorite loaf found a way to please everyone—traditionalists and soda bread newbies (and even that finicky raisin hater). So grab some of that yellow Irish butter, slather up a couple slices, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

 

Third Place: Anna Artuso’s Pastry Shop (Median Score: 6)

This Italian bakery on Yonkers McLean Avenue sells more than 800 loaves of Irish soda bread each year in the week leading up to St. Patrick’s Day and for good reason. Tasters praised its classic, quintessential taste and texture that was “not too sweet.”

 

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Second Place: Cathy’s Biscotti (Median Score: 7)

Turns out Cathy does more than just Best of Westchester-winning biscotti. Tasters praised the cakey, crumbly texture and went nuts for the sugary, golden crust, and “sweet, soft raisins.” Editorial intern Will Garrity gave it the ultimate compliment: “This tastes like St. Patrick’s Day.” (And with a name like Garrity, he should know.)

 

First Place: The Kneaded Bread (Median Score: 7.5)

I’ll confess, I thought our small band of caraway-seed haters would push The Kneaded Bread out of first place, but the Port Chester bakery held onto the crown, proving that they make a darn good loaf. Tasters called it “moist,” praised its “amazing, dense texture,” and Senior Editor John Turiano called its crust “the best of the bunch.” Apparently our resident raisin hater knows what she’s talking about. The Kneaded Bread’s soda bread contains traditional currants and caraway seeds (and absolutely no raisins).

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