Thursday, October 8, 2009
Irish Soda Bread
4 to 4 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup raisins
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 375. Sift together 4 cups of flour, the sugar, salt, and baking soda into a large mixing bowl.
Using two dinner knives (can also use your fingers), work butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal, then stir in raisins.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add beaten egg and buttermilk to well and mix in with a wooden spoon until dough is too stiff to stir. Dust hands with a little flour, then gently knead dough in the bowl just long enough to form a rough ball. If the dough is too sticky to work with, add in a little more flour. Do not over-knead.
Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and shape into a round loaf. Note that the dough will be a little sticky, and quite shaggy (a little like a shortcake biscuit dough). You want to work it just enough so that it comes together. If you over-knead, the bread will end up tough.
Transfer dough to a large, lightly greased baking sheet (it will flatten out a bit on the baking sheet). Score top of dough about an inch or so deep in an X shape. The purpose of the scoring is to help heat get into the center of the dough while it cooks.
Transfer to oven and bake until bread is golden and bottom sounds hollow when tapped, about 35-45 minutes. Check for doneness also by inserting a long, thin skewer into the center. If it comes out clean, it's done. Hint: If the top is getting too dark while baking, tent the bread with some aluminum foil.
Remove pan or sheet from oven, let bread sit on the sheet for 5-10 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool briefly. Serve bread warm, at room temperature, or sliced and toasted. Best when eaten warm and just baked.