IRISH AMERICAN SODA BREAD (for eight)
On the Emerald Isle, soda bread traditionally is made with flour, baking soda, salt, buttermilk and, if you’re from Donegal or Leitrim, caraway seeds. Nothing more. When that tradition was taken to America, eggs, butter and sultanas or currants were added, creating an exotic loaf unrecognizable to most native Irish.
5 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
2-1/2 cups raisins
3 tablespoons caraway seeds
2-1/2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg
1. Preheat the oven to 350*. Generously butter a heavy oven-proof 10 to 12 inch diameter skillet with 2 to 2-1/2 inch high sides. Whisk first five ingredients in a large bowl to blend. Add butter; using fingertips, rub in until coarse crumbs form. Stir in raisins and caraway seeds. Whisk buttermilk and egg in medium bowl to blend. Add to dough; using a wooden spoon, stir just until well incorporated (dough will be very sticky).
2. Transfer dough to prepared skillet; smooth top, mounding slightly in center. Using a small sharp knife dipped in flour, cut a 1 inch deep X in top center of dough (some say this is to let the fairies out, others say it’s the devil you’re releasing). Bake until bread is cooked through and a tester inserted in center comes out clean about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool bread in skillet 10 minutes. Turn out onto rack and cool completely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap tightly in foil and store at room temperature.)
from a letter the editor of Bon Appetit Magazine, October, 2002. The writer, Patrice Bedrosian of Brewster, New York, lost her step-brother, Jerry O’Leary, in the collapse of the World Trade Center. He was a 34 year old chef working at Cantor Fitzgerald’s corporate dining room. This is his mother’s recipe.