While I like the appearance of the free-form, cross-topped, savory versions--I prefer the sugary note and texture of the "loaf pan" varieties. The sweet flavor gently balances strong, savory Irish dishes. Hearty, with a surprisingly delicate taste...this is no utilitarian loaf. This "quick bread" has a sense of warmth and personality. A stand-alone soloist, that needs no back-up singers, but will happily join in the choir!
After trying numerous dry, crumbly versions, I believe I've finally found a winner. This Irish soda bread, adapted from Brother Rick Curry's The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking, is delightful and just as I remember it. To take it to another level, serve this bread warm with rich, tangy Irish butter from the specialty food market!
Half a loaf is better than no bread at all.
An Irish Proverb
Sweet Irish Soda Bread
5 cups sifted all-purpose unbleached flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 pound (1 stick) butter
2 1/2 cups mixed light and dark raisins, soaked in water for 15-20 minutes and drained
3 tablespoons caraway seeds
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg, slightly beaten
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter 2 (9 by 5-inch) bread pans.
Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Cut in the butter and mix very thoroughly with your hands until it gets grainy. Stir in the drained raisins and caraway seeds.
Add the buttermilk and egg to the flour mixture. Stir until well moistened. The "dough" should resemble thick cake batter. Equally fill 2 loaf pans. Then sprinkle the top of each with turbinado sugar to make it shimmery!
*Buttermilk can have different consistencies, depending on the brand. If your dough is thicker than dense cake batter--don't worry! Just shape it into loaves and place in the pans. No need to add more liquid!
Bake for 60-70 minutes. Test with a toothpick for doneness. Cool in the pans for 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.