Did You Know? Legend has it that folks carved a cross on soda bread to "let the devil out" while it's baking for good luck, and others say that it made it easy to divide into 4 pieces. It was also a symbol for a cross during Christian holidays.
While not the traditional Irish soda bread, I've included raisins in mine, turning it into something called "Spotted Dog" or "Railway Cake." If you want to make a truly authentic soda bread, the recipe simply calls for flour, buttermilk, baking soda, and salt. The caraway seeds and plump raisins in this recipe drew me in, so this is what you see today.
St.Patrick's Day has never been a big holiday in my house, but being on Spring Break has left me with extra time to bake, so I thought I would start the tradition of soda bread eating this year. Turns out, it might make a more frequent appearance on my kitchen table. It's good, really good.
Taking on the taste of rye, but with a much crumblier texture, this traditional Irish staple was by far the easiest bread I've ever made. Sudded with sweet, plump raisins, the only thing difficult about this bread was slicing it. After the initial chop, the remainding slices pretty much all broke in half. Nothing a little butter couldn't piece back together. Happy St.Patrick's Day!
Adapted from the March 2009 Issue of Martha Stewart Living
1 1/3 cups whole milk
1/3 cup apple-cider vinegar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface and dusting
2 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup unprocessed wheat bran
1/4 cup caraway seeds
1 cup (5 ounces) raisins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Mix milk and vinegar in a small bowl, and let stand until thickened, about 5 minutes.
Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Cut in unsalted butter with a pastry cutter or 2 knives (I used a fork) until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add bran, caraway seeds, and raisins; stir to distribute.
Pour milk mixture into flour mixture; stir until dough just holds together but is still sticky. Turn dough onto a well-floured surface (I found the dough to be quite sticky, so I added an additional 1/2 cup of flour to the recipe above). Pat and press the dough gently into a round, dome-shaped loaf, about 7 inches in diameter. Transfer to prepared sheet.
Lightly dust top of loaf with flour. With a sharp knife, cut an X into the top, 3/4 inch deep. Bake, rotating halfway through, until loaf is golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Soda bread is best eaten the day it is made; serve with salted butter.