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Irish soda bread with cardamom

Irish soda bread - irish soda bread with cardamomSt. Patrick’s Day is the season for Irish soda loaves—being more immediate than yeast-leavened breads, they don’t require waiting for dough to rise, nor any particular baking prowess when it comes time to shape and bake. It’s perfect no matter what you do; a good choice when you want an afternoon unfettered by performance anxiety. Here, I added cardamom (a warm spice related to ginger that makes the house smell wonderful) but it would be perfectly acceptable to swap cinnamon, nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice, or leave it out altogether. Soda bread takes on warm, earthy flavours well; try adding dried fruit or candied ginger or citron, or grated orange zest and chunks of dark chocolate.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup old fashioned (large flake) oats
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cardamom (or substitute cinnamon)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup butter, cut in pieces
2 cups buttermilk (or half buttermilk, half eggnog)
1 large egg
1/2-1 cup raisins or other dried fruit (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. In a large bowl, stir together the flours, oats, baking soda, baking powder, cardamom and salt; add the butter and blend with a pastry cutter, fork or your fingers until crumbly. In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together the buttermilk and egg with a fork; pour it into the dry ingredients, add the raisins and stir until you have a stiff dough.

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 3-4 times, shaping it into a slightly flat ball. Transfer to a parchment-lined sheet and cut two deep slashes across the top. Bake for 35-40 min, until deep golden and hollow-sounding when tapped on the bottom.

4. Transfer soda bread to a wire rack to cool, with a tea towel draped overtop to keep the crust soft.

Serve warm, in wedges.


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