Apricot-caraway tea bread

I can’t really call this Irish soda bread, or even Irish-American soda bread, since my ingredient limitations forced my creative hand (as they tend to do). This is, though, a basic soda bread – a quick bread leavened with baking soda instead of yeast. Since I ran out of raisins (and was already using golden ones at that), I supplemented with chopped, dried apricots. And since I was already going a different direction with this bread, I baked it in a buttered terrine pan (and added a bit extra sugar and buttermilk to the dough, per Joy of Cooking’s direction) to yield a neat, uniform loaf with an elegant crumb. “I may as well,” I figured.

I toasted the caraway to draw out the sweet, caramel-y undertones of the seeds, and the resulting aroma of this baking loaf was so powerfully evocative of my mother that I had to take a triple-take with my nose to pinpoint the reason. She never baked this bread, in my recollection, but the bread machine she gave me for Christmas when I was 19 years old came with a mix for this very bread (the standard version of it). This versatile recipe needs no such contraption, though; in fact, it begs to come out of an old-fashioned oven, cradled in mitt-clad hands.

Yankee it may be, we indeed enjoyed this lovely loaf on St. Patrick’s Day, along with pressure-cooked corned beef brisket, garlicky roasted cabbage and champ (to be posted later this week). Served with tea (Constant Comment – my mother’s favorite) and toasted with butter, leftovers made the pleasantest of breakfasts.