The American version of soda bread often includes caraway seeds and raisins. Caraway, though not common, was traditionally added to soda bread in Donegal, Leitrim and County Clare. A real soda bread is a simple loaf with a beautifully browned, craggy crust and a nice chew, best eaten liberally smeared with salty Irish butter such as Kerrygold.
Soda bread gets its name from the fact that baking soda is used as the leavening agent instead of yeast. According to Colman Andrews, author of The Country Cooking of Ireland, the use of baking soda in baked goods did not exist in Ireland until 1846, when two New York bakers came to visit. Today, their companies are a household name — Arm & Hammer. Without them, Irishsoda bread as we know it today might not even exist.
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons Demerara Sugar (Turbinado Sugar)
4 tablespoons cold salted butter
1 tablespoon caraway seed* Can be omitted
1 cup golden raisins* Can be omitted
1-1/4 – 1-1/2 cups of buttermilk
1 tablespoon of milk to glaze the top
Preheat oven to 350˚. Arrange shelf one up from the middle. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Sift all dry ingredients together. Cut cold butter into small pieces and then cut into the flour until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Fold in caraway seeds and raisins. Add egg to the buttermilk and beat well before adding to dry ingredients. Use a knife to blend into a dough. Then place on counter and knead into a ball that holds its shape. Put dough onto baking sheet. Make a fist and flatten with knuckles until the dough is 8 inches wide. Cut a deep cross in the middle. Glaze with the milk.
Bake 1 hour or until when the bottom is tapped that it sounds hollow. Let cool. Then slice along the cross lines into quarters. Each quarter is again sliced. Eat with lots of butter and enjoy.
To make Irish Soda Bread Scones. Preheat oven to 425˚ Scoop 1/3 cup size mounds onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, 3 inches apart; bake 15-20 minutes until the bottoms are golden. Let cool on sheet. For a special glaze, combine 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons milk and ¼ teaspoon grated orange zest. Drizzle over scones; serve.