To any purists out there who might be mortally offended by my calling this recipe “soda bread,” rest assured, I mean you no harm.  For the record, authentic Irish soda bread is made with flour, baking soda, salt, soured milk, and nothing else.  But the addition of baking powder, a little butter and sugar, and some dried fruit makes a loaf so tender and delicious, it’s worth flouting tradition for.

The original recipe calls for adding one whole egg plus one yolk to the dough along with the buttermilk.  Eggs aren’t necessary, but if you’d like to use them, decrease the buttermilk to 1 cup to compensate for the added liquid.  If you don’t have buttermilk, you can fake it with a mixture of regular milk and vinegar or lemon juice.  See my notes following the recipe for the method.

Day-old soda bread makes outstanding toast.

Soda Bread with Dried Cherries and Golden Raisins

Adapted from Midwest Home, featured this week in the kitchn

Yield: 2 loaves

3 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. fine sea salt

1/4 c. brown sugar

6 tbsp. cold butter, cut into chunks

1 1/4 c. cold buttermilk

3/4 c. dried cherries

3/4 c. golden raisins

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Stir in brown sugar.  Using a pastry blender, your fingers, or whatever method you like best, cut butter into flour until mixture resembles wet sand.  Don’t overmix — you should still see a few pea-sized lumps of butter in the bowl.

Pour in the buttermilk and stir with a rubber spatula until mixture starts to come together.  Add cherries and raisins and continue to mix until most of the flour is incorporated.  Turn dough out onto a floured counter and gently knead a few times, flouring dough and hands as necessary, until it comes together.  Divide dough into two equal portions, shape into rounds, and place on a parchment-lined sheet pan.

Using a sharp — but not serrated — knife (a paring knife works well), score a large x in the top of each round, about 1/2″ deep.  If you have a second sheet pan of the same size, place it underneath the first — this helps keep the bottom of the bread from burning.  Bake in center of oven, 35-40 minutes, until sides are nicely browned and loaves sound hollow when tapped on top.  Remove to wire racks to cool.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Make it dairy-free: Substitute a non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening (Earth Balance’s Buttery Sticks are the best) and make mock buttermilk using soy milk.  Here’s the method:  To make one cup, put 1 tbsp. cider vinegar (or lemon juice, or white vinegar) in a 1 c. measuring cup and then fill it up with soy milk.  Let sit for about 10 minutes to thicken.  Unfortunately, this trick doesn’t work well with rice milk — it’s too thin and lacks the protein necessary for proper curdling.

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