NANA O’CONNOR’S IRISH SODA BREAD
Preheat oven at 425 degrees. (You may need to adjust baking temperature and/or time for your individual oven.)
Light grease 9-inch round cake pan with Pam
Triple Sifter highly recommended (Sold at Wal-Mart)
½ to ¾ cup raisins (more if desired – presoak raisins in hot water to plump – towel dry)
I use microwave to heat raisins in water. 40-50 seconds at full power and let soak till you need them.
4 cups sifted flour (buy unbleached and presifted)
2 tsp. salt (I decrease to 1 tsp.)
¼ cup sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
2 cups buttermilk
Measure and sift half of the dry ingredients into your sifter. Sift flour, salt, baking soda, and sugar together four times (triple sifter plus presifted makes 4 times) into large bowl. Repeat process with other half of dry ingredients, sifting into the same bowl. Stir the plumped raisins into the flour mixture. Make a well in the center and add buttermilk, stirring from the outside of the bowl inward with a fork, to make a fairly moist dough. Then fold the dough with your hand (tip: cover hand with sandwich baggie) from the outside of the bowl in towards the center lightly for about 3 minutes until dough mixture starts to form into a ball. DO NOT KNEAD! You may need to add a little flour if dough is very sticky, or you may need to add a little buttermilk if the dough is dry and not catching all the flour clumps. Place into a lightly greased round pan (or onto a cookie sheet), pat down to shape. Note: you will not need to grease if you have a non-stick pan.
Using a sharp knife, score the dough in quarters across the top. Be careful not to cut through the dough. Bake in hot oven at 425 degrees for about 40 minutes. You may need to adjust baking temperature and/or time for your individual oven. Be sure to check progress of bread 5-10 minutes before it is done. Bread should be a rich brown. Do not over bake. Cool the bread on a rack for about 3 hours. (You can wrap bread in a cloth while cooling if you prefer a softer crust.)
Cut the bread in half first, then in quarters. Begin to slice the bread from the taller end to the shorter end. Slice thinly and be very careful, because the crispy crust sometimes makes the knife slip toward your left hand and can cut your left index finger. I wear an ove glove on left hand to protect it. Can be toasted and buttered. Best when enjoyed in 2-3 days.
Wishing you the luck of the Irish! --Lin O’Connor