Top 'o the Morning to You! This bread is a great way to start off your St. Patrick's Day celebrations for all actual and aspiring Irish folk. This bread hearkens back to a time when Irish soda bread was a more rustic, country affair, not all gussied up with mostly white flour. Traditionally, the Irish didn't have a lot of white flour, and the loaves were a bit coarser and darker, but also healthier. Let's not wax eloquent over those Medieval white bread loaves whose noble persons so eagerly sought out. I wonder if they knew that ground chalk was sometimes put in their flour to make it appear whiter.
We're talking about a somewhat large, delicious, nutty tasting loaf made with wholemeal flour and yes, a little bit of white flour to lighten up the texture. You can certainly do all wholemeal if you wish. I like to embellish my loaf with raisins and either caraway, anise or even fennel seeds for a unique taste, and to really gild the lily, some homemade or good quality strawberry jam and butter.
This would be very appetizing for either breakfast (in which case it's best made the day before) or afternoon tea, whichever strikes your fancy. You can see in this photo how the bread should look, and do make sure it is a deep golden brown to ensure that it has baked through.
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
11/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup butter or shortening
3 cups wholemeal flour (I used King Arthur Flour's Irish Wholemeal Flour)
1 3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup raisins, preferably golden (if you like raisins, you can certainly add up to 3/4 cup)
1 tsp. caraway, fennel, or anise seeds, whichever you have
Stir together the flour, soda, salt in a large bowl. Cut in the shortening/butter with a pastry blender until it looks like coarse meal. Add all of the wholemeal flour, stir, then add the buttermilk, raisins and seeds. When a slightly stiff dough forms, turn out onto a floured board and knead for 3-5 minutes. I found it came together quite quickly and only needed the 3 minutes. Shape it into a round and place in a well greased 8” or 9” cake pan With a sharp knife, slash an “X” into the top, about 1/4” to 1/2” deep. Bake in a 375 F convection oven or 400 F conventional for 45 to 55 minutes, and the loaf should be quite brown when done. Be careful not to under bake, as it will then be doughy in the centre. Cool on a wire rack. Good served plain, or as mentioned, with butter and jam.