St. Patrick's Day is here, and that means soda bread of all kinds. These tea biscuits are quick and easy to make. This is definitely not a real Irish soda bread, which is traditionally made with flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk, and never fancied up with currants, caraway or buttery goodness of any kind. My Nana made a very traditional soda bread when we were kids, and although I still use her recipe at times, I've come to really like this moister, lighter version quite a bit, too.
Don't try to substitute for the soy milk - I made a batch with rice milk, which I prefer for non-cooked uses, such as cereal and tea, and it just doesn't sour the same way. You will also need to consider your flour - a high-protein flour will make a tough biscuit. Although I prefer King Arthur all-purpose flour for many recipes, I do keep Gold Medal unbleached all-purpose flour on hand for dumplings and the like, and it works very well here, too. If you wanted a whole wheat version, whole wheat pastry flour is a good substitute. Do not substitute regular whole wheat flour, unless you're planning a hockey game and need a puck.
Some people say that they hate caraway seeds, but those people are freaks. It's my opinion that people who don't like caraway seeds are using too many. A heaping teaspoon will perfume your biscuits with light caraway flavor, without punching you in the face while screaming CARAWAY! If you really and truly cannot stomach caraway seeds, then fine, I still disagree with you, but leave them out. And if you don't have any currants, I don't mind if you want to use raisins. I also don't mind if you want to soak those currants or raisins for an hour in a big splash of Irish whiskey and a little boiling water to get them nice and plump and boozy. Just drain them well before you mix them in.
Start souring the soy milk before you do anything else, to give it time to get nice and thick. Serve these biscuits to your old lady friends (and all of your other friends) with a nice, hot cup of tea, and they'll thank you, dearie.
Irish Tea Biscuits
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons soy milk (combined soy milk and vinegar will equal 1 1/4 cups)
3 cups low-protein all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick butter substitute (1/2 cup), well-chilled
1 heaping teaspoon caraway seeds
3/4 cup Zante currants
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix vinegar or lemon juice with soy milk. Allow to stand while you prepare remaining ingredients.
Grease a sheet pan or standard muffin tin.
Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Toss with a fork. Cut butter substitute into small pieces, and rub into the flour mixture using your hands, until it resembles coarse crumbs. (If you want to do this step in the food processor, partially freeze your butter substitute, and pulse into the flour mixture five or six times. Remove to a medium bowl to finish the recipe.)
Mix in the currants and caraway seeds. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and add the soured soy milk all at once. Using a rubber spatula, mix, turning the batter until the flour is just incorporated. Do not overmix!
Divide the dough into 12 even pieces. Work quickly, as you need to get these into the oven while the baking soda and soy buttermilk are reacting with one another. If using a sheet pan, lightly pat each piece into a circle. If using muffin tin, simply place dough in the wells of the muffin tin.
Bake for 14-15 minutes, until the biscuits are lightly golden brown.
Serve warm. With more buttery spread and maybe some homemade jam if you want to get really crazy.