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How to Make Soda Bread

March 15th, 2012 Cooking

If you've ever visited Ireland, you may know that there's a seemingly infinite number of soda bread recipes out there. Everyone has their own taste preferences, and this dynamic dish can accommodate almost all of them. This bread accompanies almost every meal in Ireland, and while it's not as common stateside, St. Patrick's Day is the perfect opportunity to teach yourself how to make it.

What distinguishes soda bread from what many of us are used to is the fact that it doesn't use yeast for leavening. Baking soda is the ingredient that causes it to rise up, reacting to the lactic acid contained in buttermilk. It's the perfect addition to a hearty weekend breakfast and works just as well with lunch or dinner.

If you've never made soda bread before, you'll be happy to know that it's relatively simple and can be done in about an hour. Fix yourself a batch in the morning and enjoy it with every meal for the next couple of days! Here's a slightly spruced-up take on traditional soda bread, courtesy of Simply Recipes.

Ingredients 4 to 4 1/2 cups flour 2 tablespoon sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon baking soda 4 Tbsp butter 1 cup raisins 1 large egg, lightly beaten 1 3/4 cups buttermilk

Start by preheating your oven to 425 degrees. Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Next, using either your fingers (wash your hands first!) or two knives, start to work the butter into the mixture until it begins to resemble a coarse meal. Now add the raisins.

This next step can be a little tricky, so be careful. Create a small well in the center of the flour mixture and place the beaten egg and buttermilk inside. Mix everything thoroughly with a wooden spoon until the dough becomes too stiff to stir without difficulty.

Now dust your hands with a bit of flour and start to knead the dough until it forms a ball. If you find it too sticky, add a bit more flour, and make sure you don't over-knead! Transfer this dough to a floured surface and shape it into a loaf. At this point, it should be a bit sticky and crumbly. You're trying to work it until the flour is nicely moistened and the dough barely sticks together. Err on the side of less kneading if you're unsure, because over-kneading can cause the bread to become rough.

Next, transfer the dough to a large skillet or baking sheet and slice an X through the middle using a serrated knife - this helps heat get into the middle of the bread as it cooks. Place the dough into the oven and allow it to cook for about 35 to 45 minutes. In order to check if it's done, note whether the top of the bread is golden. The bottom of the sheet or skillet should also sound hollow when you tap it.

Let the bread sit outside of the oven for a few minutes before transferring it to a cooling rack. Although it's traditionally eaten warm and right out of the oven, soda bread is delicious when you toast it as well. If you have any extra dough, wrap it up and freeze it until the next time you decide to make a batch!