By Ed Bruske
aka The Slow Cook
I was looking forward to teaching the kids in my food appreciation classes about the simplest kind of Irish soda bread baked in a cast-iron pot. But then my wife steered me toward this recipe, which is a more Americanized take on the the classic, including two kinds of flour, a little egg, raisins and caraway seeds.
This is another lesson in quick breads, or those made with chemical rising agents--in this case baking soda and cream of tartar, mixed with buttermilk--instead of yeast. It makes a lovely loaf of semi-savory bread, well worth a little extra trouble. Serve it warm--fresh from the oven--with a pot of your favorite fruit preserves.
For dry ingredients, stir together in a large mixing bowl 3 cups (15 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, 1 cup (4 ounces) plain cake flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Add 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) room temperature butter cut into small pieces. Cut the butter into the flour until the mix resembles a loose grain. (We used our fingers for this, pinching the flour and butter together--a great activity for the kids.)
Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, beat 1 egg and stir in 1 1/2 cups buttermilk. Add 1 cup raisins and 1 tablespoon caraway seeds.
Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients and stir until everything is thoroughly incorporated. Pour the dough onto a work surface dusted with flour and knead just until the dough holds together in a soft ball. Place the ball onto a greased baking sheet, or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and pat it down until it is about eight inches around and two or three inches high. Score the top into a cross with a sharp knife.
Place on the upper-middle rack of a 400-degree oven for 40 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the bread reads 170 degrees. Allow to cool for a bit before cutting into wedges. You can also brush the top with melted butter for a nicely burnished look.