Every family in Ireland has its own recipe for soda bread, hand-written on flour-crusted note paper and wedged in among the cookery books. Some like it sweet with a spoonful of honey, sugar or dried fruits. Others prefer sprinkled-in seeds, bran and oats for a health boost, or treacle and Guinness for the opposite effect. However, the basic ingredients don’t change (bicarbonate of soda and buttermilk form the raising agent, which is mixed in with flour) and nor does the way it’s eaten: sliced and spread liberally with butter.
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 45 minutes
Total time: 55 mins
Yield: 1 loaf
1 and 3/4 cups (420ml) buttermilk
1 large egg
4 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for your hands and counter
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1 cup raisins
1. Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). There are options for the baking pan. Use a regular baking sheet and line with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat (bread spreads a bit more on a baking sheet), use a seasoned 10-12 inch cast iron skillet, or grease a 9-10 inch cake pan or pie dish. Grease or line with parchment paper.
2. Whisk the buttermilk and egg together. Set aside. Whisk the flour, granulated sugar, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter, fork, or your fingers. This mixture is very heavy on the flour, but do your best to cut in the butter until the butter is pea-sized crumbs. Stir in the raisins. Pour in the buttermilk/egg mixture. Gently fold the dough together until dough it is too stiff to stir. Pour crumbly dough onto a lightly floured work surface. With floured hands, work the dough into a ball as best you can, then knead for about 30 seconds or until all the flour is moistened. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour.
3. Transfer the dough to the prepared skillet/pan. Using a very sharp knife, score an X into the top. Bake until the bread is golden brown and center appears cooked through, about 45 minutes. Loosely cover the bread with aluminum foil if you notice heavy browning on top. I usually place foil on top halfway through bake time.
4. Remove from the oven and allow bread to cool for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm, at room temperature, or toasted with desired toppings/spreads. (Butter!)
5. Cover and store leftover bread at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Recipe courtesy of Sally's Baking Addiction.