The first time I ever had Irish Soda Bread, (that I remember anyways) was at the Dutchess County Fair with my Mother. Each year I got the chance to help set up the Culinary food display, but before it was set up the food must come in!
It was a wild day, the amount of food, the kinds of food that came in, fudge, cookies, jam, bread, did I mention fudge? Canned items of all sorts, and I do mean “all”. One year we saw purple pickles, no joke, purple pickles! The judges didn’t even attempt to taste it. After all the entries were taken in, labeled and set into their categories correctly the judging began, sometimes on the same day or the next.
We were able to watch over several hours all the foods being tasted and the one huge category that always seemed to have a dozen or more entries was Irish Soda Bread. Green ones too, again, not kidding! That was not the strangest thing we ever saw even, but that’s another story. The bread though, really amazed me, that this one round bread seemed to attract so many entries. It must have been amazing bread to have everyone enter it! Whenever the food was judged we would always glance over the recipe and still it didn’t make any sense, there weren’t any special ingredients. Some of them added different things , like currants, or caraway seeds, flour on top, or sugar on top, powdered sugar even, still though it didn’t make much sense that such a bread would attract so much. That is, until I made it myself.
The way I see it is, it really was popular because it’s quick and easy to do, though I know a lot of them really truly loved the bread all in it’s own. If you keep your pantry stocked, you’d have everything you need to make it any day. My kids love to make this bread, it’s that simple to make, and if I remember correctly a lot of those entries for this category were in fact made by kids. Come to think of it, that green one had to be a kids idea. Had to be!
This recipe came from a Blue Ribbon winner, Brian Dayte at the Dutchess County Fair, in 2004. From the book Blue Ribbon Recipes- 693 Award Winners from State and County Fairs, by Barbara Greenman (I was there that year too!)
3 cups flour plus more for kneading
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease and flour a glass or ceramic pie plate. (I used a foil one)
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder , baking soda, salt, caraway seeds and raisins in a large bowl. Add buttermilk and stir just until moistened.
Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface. Using floured hands, knead and form dough into a round loaf and place it in the greased pan. Cute a cross in the top of the loaf with a knife. Sprinkle flour and water on top of the loaf. Bake for 50 minutes. Turn out onto wire rack and cook. Makes 1 loaf.
I had two recipes out and added sugar on top instead of flour and water. The other changes I used from the recipe were adding butter, one stick of cold butter cut up with a pastry blender to resembles coarse crumbs, add into the flour mixture before the buttermilk. The only other difference in the two recipes were the amount of flour – an extra 1/4 cup in the recipe with butter and 1-1/3 cup buttermilk instead of the 1-1/2. So all the recipes I’ve seen have very small changes in them. Since I’m not much of a fan of the taste myself, I let my husband tell me if it’s good, he likes it made this way.