A true Irish soda bread uses whole-grained flours, not white, and little, if any, sugar (it’s actually quite bland). What we call Irish soda bread here in the United States is more closely aligned to what is called “Spotted Dick” or “Spotted Dog” in the United Kingdom. What both have in common is no yeast. Instead, the leavening agent is the chemical reaction between the baking soda and the buttermilk which causes the loaf to rise nice and high. Be sure your baking soda is fresh.
This loaf is particularly good lightly toasted and spread with cream cheese. It’s really quite easy to make. British counterparts would call for dried currants. I settled for American dried cranberries. I steeped both the berries and raisins in a cup of boiling water to plump them up. I drained them in a sieve and then rolled them on a cloth towel to dry as much as possible. Don’t omit the caraway. (If you can find them, use baking raisins which are already plump and juicy).
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 1/2 – 2 cups raisins, or a combination of raisins and dried cranberries
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sour cream
Before making the bread, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch round cast iron skillet or a 9-inch high-sided round baking or cake pan. I use an 8 x 11 cast-iron, enamel-lined Dutch oven
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour (reserving 1 tablespoon), sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, raisins and caraway seeds. In a small bowl, blend eggs, buttermilk and sour cream. Stir the liquid mixture into the flour mixture just until the flour is moistened. Knead dough in bowl about 10 to 12 strokes. Dough will be very wet and sticky. Place the dough in the prepared skillet or pan and pat down with moist hands. Cut a 4-inch long x 3/4-inch deep slit or incision in the top of the bread. Dust with reserved flour.
The batter will be very thick.