Irish soda bread is a bread made with baking soda as a leavening agent instead of yeast.
Traditional soda bread is made with flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. Through the years (and quite controversially to soda bread purists) the addition of eggs, nuts, or dried fruits has become common.
I respect the history of the dish, I recognize it is from a simpler time, but I'm going to make it with additional ingredients. Purists be warned!
4 - 4 1/2 cups flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
4 Tbsp butter
1 cup raisins
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 3/4 cups buttermilk *see note
Preheat the oven to 425°. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 4 cups of flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Using a pastry cutter (or two knives), work the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse meal.
Stir in the raisins and make a well in the center of the mixture.
Add the beaten egg and buttermilk to well and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough is too stiff to stir. (*Note - if you do not have buttermilk simply add about 1 Tbsp white vinegar or lemon juice to each cup of milk and let sit a few minutes to thicken.) Dust your hands with flour and taking care not to over-knead, form a rough ball. If the dough is too sticky, add up to 1/2 cup more flour. The dough should be a little sticky and shaggy, resembling biscuit dough.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and work just enough until it comes together. Form into a round loaf. Move the dough to a large, greased cast-iron skillet or baking sheet (I used a pie tin with venting holes, a gift from the lovely Laura). Using a knife, score an X in the top of the dough about 1 1/2" deep.
Bake approximately 35-45 minutes until the bread is golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. If the top is darkening too quickly while baking, tent with aluminum foil. (Mine baked about 38 minutes and the top browned very quickly at the end, so keep an eye on it!)
Let cool 5-10 minutes before slicing. Best when eaten shortly after baking, I have read it does not keep very well.
This was tastier than I expected it to be. A hint of sweetness, but still very much a savory bread. Johnny deemed it "incredible." We each had 3 huge slices (almost half of the loaf) in one sitting alongside the ever-scrumptious New England boiled dinner.