‘Tis the season for all things Irish, and I always get a jones going for Irish soda bread come mid-March. I don’t know what I love most about it: It’s super easy to make, it has a great sweet/savory balance, and it keeps well. This recipe includes caraway seed (some do not), and it’s super-raisiny, so if you want to cut back the raisins by 1/2 cup, you can. I prefer a blend of half dark and half golden raisins.
I’ve had this recipe for Irish soda bread forever; it’s stashed in my 3-ring binder of old newspaper clippings, handwritten notecards and well-loved recipes that I’ve retyped for easy reference. I’m not entirely certain of the recipe’s provenance, but it’s my go-to.
really good Irish soda bread
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. caraway seed
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
2 cups raisins (dark and golden, or either)
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1 large egg
1 tsp. baking soda
Preheat oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper. In a very large bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Add sugar and caraway seed and stir with a fork to combine. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the raisins.
In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, egg and baking soda and stir with a fork to combine well. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the dry ingredients and stir well with a fork. Here’s the fun part: Dig your hands into the bowl and work the dough to incorporate everything as much as you can. The dough will feel dry and floury; once you have it fairly combined, turn the dough and any loose flour and raisins out onto a clean work surface and continue to knead until the flour and raisins are fully combined. This will take a few minutes. Shape the dough into a round about 8 inches in diameter. Using a sharp paring knife, make an X in the top, going about 1 inch deep (this helps the center of this dense bread to cook through). Bake for 1 hour; test for doneness by inserting a skewer into the middle of the bread (it should come out clean). If the bread needs more time, bake for an additional 10 minutes.
Irish soda bread keeps very well for several days, and it’s just as good toasted on Day 3 as it is right out of the oven on Day 1.