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Cheesy Beer Irish Soda Bread with Caramelized Onions

This bread is a marriage of beer and cheese bread and traditional Irish soda bread. Irish soda bread is traditionally made with baking soda instead of yeast as a leavening agent. Ingredients include flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. The buttermilk contains lactic acid, which reacts with the baking soda to form little bubble of carbon dioxide, which gives the bread its rise. In this recipe, the bread will get its rise from that as well as the yeast in the Guinness beer. This bread comes together in a snap- no excessive kneading or proofing required and minimal shaping. The X that is cut into the top f the bread help allow steam to escape and the bread to expand, but it is also thought to signify the cross.

Other traditional ingredients include butter, eggs, raisins and nuts. I do love cinnamon raisin bread and other breads that contain bread and nuts, but I planned to serve this bread alongside my Traditional New England Boiled Dinner, so I wanted to skew savory. I love beer and cheese bread, so I smashed the two recipes together and delighted in the results. 

I also decided to add caramelized onions to the dough. I knew I would need a bunch of onions to make enough caramelized onions to adequately flavor my bread. Cooking that many onions on the stovetop would take time and almost constant attention. Instead, I experimented to see if I could use my slow cooker. I put 6 sliced sweet onions in my slow cooker and allowed it to cook for 12 hours on low. After checking, I added another 6 hours of time to my slow cooker. After 16 hours of cooking time, my onions were as perfect as if I babysat them for an hour on the stovetop, and I had plenty for my bread and to keep in the fridge for more recipes throughout the week.

I do hope you’ll give this bread a try. Feel free to further experiment with add-ins; I expect chives in place of the caramelized onion would be lovely…. or crisps bacon. But then, bacon always makes everything better. Enjoy!

Lazy Caramelized Onions
6 sweet onions, cut into thin half moons
2 teaspoons salt
fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

In a slow cooker, add your sliced onions, black pepper and salt. Cook on high heat for 16 hours. Drain them of any remaining liquid, taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Irish Soda Bread:
4 cups all purpose flour
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons salt
8 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup of buttermilk 
3/4 cup Guinness beer
2 cups of grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup of caramelized onions, chopped
1 egg, beaten

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the dry ingredients and whisk well. Cut in your small pieces of flour until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add in 1 1/2 cups of cheese and caramelized onions.

Combine your beaten egg, buttermilk and beer. Make a well in your dry mixture, and pour your wet mixture into it. Using a stiff spatula, a wooden spoon, or your hands, mix the wet ingredients into the dry. The dough will be very wet.

Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it a few times. Form it into a round loaf. Place it onto a parchment lined baking sheet. With a knife, slice a cross into the loaf. Sparkle the remaining cheese on top.

Bake for 55 minutes or until knife inserted to the middle comes out clean. Cool and a wire rack.


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