"Never Fail" Irish Soda Bread

March 16, 2009 6:44:55 PM PDT
Note from Catherine Chambers: In 1840 carbonate soda arrived in Ireland and it was cheaper than yeast - hence soda bread. Also raisins, sugar and egg were all luxuries that would only have been put into the bread for Christmas or special occasions and then this was called "soda cake." These items were too expensive for the poor farmer and an egg would never be wasted in a cake. An egg was sold or eaten alone. A cake is dessert and bread is eaten with every meal. My Mother always distinguished between the two. In Ireland if you heard someone asking for tea and bread - it was tea and soda bread always.

4 cups sifted white flour
2 teaspoon caraway seeds(optional)
½ cup sugar
¼ cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon salt
2 ½ cups light or dark raisins
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg unbeaten
Topping: 1 egg yolk for topping (or extra butter)

Heat oven to 375 ? grease pan and lightly flour.

In mixing bowl add flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda (caraway seeds if you want) and stir. Cut in butter until coarse and stir in raisins; combine buttermilk egg, and stir until flour mixture is moistened.

Turn dough onto floured surface; knead lightly until smooth and shape into ball. Place in pan and smooth top. With sharp knife make a 4" cross, ¼" deep in center top. Beat yolk lightly with fork and brush over top or cut 4 patties of butter or margarine. Bake: 1 hour and 10 minutes or until done; remove and cool before slicing.