WASHINGTON, March 17, 2014 – Soda bread is a dense, drier textured bread thanks to the addition of baking soda. It is also an Irish tradition. Being able to make this bread with dry ingredients, other than the buttermilk, on hand often made it an easy and inexpensive filler to the family meal.
Adding raisins increases the sweetness and makes it perfect slightly toasted and served with a slather of butter in the morning.
The cross scored on the dough before baking is said to chase away evil spirits.
The bread is best made with cake or pastry flour, which is made with “soft” wheat. The buttermilk gives the bread a tart flavor that is perfect when it is served warm with soft, creamy Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter.
Some people add a bit of stout to the recipe, brush the top with a whipped egg and water mixture, sprinkle the bread with raw crystal sugar or knead in raisins or currents. Or all of the above.
You do not want to overknead this bread. Just gently knead until smooth and well mixed.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 ½ cups cake or pastry flour, though all-purpose flour will work
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup raisins, if desired
¾ cup buttermilk.
Heat oven to 375ºF. Grease cookie sheet.
Cut butter into flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl, using pastry blender or crisscrossing two knives, until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in raisins and just enough buttermilk so dough leaves side of bowl.
Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently until smooth. Shape into round loaf, about 6 1/2 inches in diameter. Place on cookie sheet. The bread is baked on a cookie sheet, not in a bread pan or tube.
Cut an X shape about 1/2 inch deep through loaf with floured knife.
Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with butter or margarine, softened, if desired.
This recipe is based on my MIL’s original Betty Crocker CookBook recipe; Photo courtesy of Betty Crocker.com, where you can also find a gluten-free soda bread recipe.