loaf of Raisin Soda Bread with a hot
cup of tea is one of life's little pleasures. Now, a soda bread can be many things.
In its most basic form it contains only four ingredients; flour, salt, baking soda,
and buttermilk. Yet it can be transformed into this lovely golden brown Raisin
Soda Bread simply by adding a little sugar,
plump dark raisins, and butter. This non yeast bread has a soft and crumbly texture
and is absolutely perfect when
sliced and spread with butter.
As I mentioned above, soda bread contains flour, salt, baking soda, and
buttermilk. It doesn't use yeast to get its rise, instead the rise comes
from baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) reacting with an acid (in this case soured milk
or buttermilk). This makes it a 'quick' bread that can be made in under 15
minutes and you can be enjoying a slice in under an hour. The important
thing to remember is to have a quick
light hand for both mixing and kneading of the dough. This will give you a
bread that is dense, but not doughy, with a tender, slightly moist
interior. Once the dough is formed into a round, a cross is cut on the top
of the bread, dividing it into quarters (called farls).
Irish Soda Bread contains buttermilk which has a nice thick creamy
texture with a rich tangy buttery taste that makes this bread tender.
Whereas in the past it was the liquid left over after churning butter it
is now commercially made by adding a bacteria to whole, skim, or low fat
milk. You can make your own buttermilk by adding 1 1/2 tablespoons of white
distilled vinegar, cider vinegar, or lemon juice to 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) of milk. Let
stand about 10 minutes at room temperature before using.
Bread: Preheat your oven to
degrees F (190 degrees C) and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Line
a baking sheet with parchment paper (or lightly butter your baking
In a large
bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Cut the cold
butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture, using a pastry blender
or two knives, until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Stir in the raisins. Make a well in the
center of the flour mixture and add most of the buttermilk. With a wooden spoon
or spatula (or your hands), mix (adding more buttermilk if necessary) until you
have a soft moist dough.
Transfer to a lightly floured surface and
dough into a 7 inch (18 cm) round. Place
the round on your prepared
baking sheet and then, with a sharp knife, cut a 1/4 inch (.5 cm) deep "X"
in the center of the bread.
for about 40 - 50 minutes or until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into
the center of the bread comes out clean. You can also test that is fully baked
by tapping the bottom of the bread -
it should sound hollow. Remove from oven. This bread is wonderful when
served warm with butter and/or jam. It also makes great toast.
Makes one seven
inch (18 cm) round raisin soda bread.
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