Irish Soda Bread with Raisins and Caraway Seeds

On the off-chance that someone out there is looking for soda bread to make tonight (or this weekend), I thought I would post my favorite one that I’ve made–it comes from
The New Best Recipe. This is one of the variations that they list for classic soda bread, but I find it more interesting than the normal loaf, and it’s extremely easy to make. If you cook it in a dutch oven or cloche, it also turns out beautiful and crusty. If you want, of course, omit the raisins and caraway seeds, but to make the classic bread, also decrease the sugar by 2 T. and leave out the egg (but what fun would that be?).

Irish Soda Bread with Raisins and Caraway Seeds

3 c. lower-protein unbleached all-purpose flour, such as Gold Medal or Pillsbury [I’ve used whatever I’ve had on had, and it’s okay, just be careful not to overwork the dough or it doesn’t have the right crumb; I’ve even included 1 c. whole wheat flour, and it works great]
1 c. plain cake flour
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. cream of tartar
1 1/2 t. salt
4 T. unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 T. melted for the crust
1 1/4 c. buttermilk (or just add 1 T. lemon juice to regular milk and let it sit for a few minutes)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 c. raisins
1 T. caraway seeds

1. Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Whisk the flours, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt together in a large bowl. Work the softened butter into the dry ingredients with a fork or your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

2. Combine the buttermilk and egg with a fork. Add the buttermilk-egg mixture, raisins, and caraway seeds to the flour mixture and stir with a fork just until the dough begin to come together. Turn out onto a flour-coated work surface; knead just until the dough becomes cohesive and bumpy, 12-14 turns. (Do not knead until the dough is smooth or the bread will be tough. You don’t want the bread to work up its gluten.)

3. Pat the dough into a round about 6 inches in diameter and 2 inches high; place on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. [I put mine in a cloche or dutch oven.] Score the dough by cutting a cross shape in the top of the loaf.

4. Bake, covering the bread with aluminum foil if it is browning too much, until the loaf is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean or the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees, 40-45 minutes. Remove the loaf from the oven and brush the surface with the melted butter; cool to room temperature, 30-40 minutes. Serve.