Irish soda bread traditions

I'm a sucker for a good tradition. Especially one that involves heritage and the USPS.

Fairly consistently for the last 7 years or so, I've been making Irish Soda Bread for friends and loved ones. I'm not quite sure how it got started but I remember making my first few loaves and sending them on their merry way to happy homes.

While many of my recipes have evolved over time to include different things, my soda bread recipe has stayed largely quite consistent ... or at least as much as I can remember. I am getting a bit old.

This past year I ended up making 4 batches of soda bread ... which meant I used 16 cups of flour and 6 cups of milk and 24 tablespoons of shortening / butter. Additionally, I actually ended up running out of regular flour and had to sub in some whole wheat flour for the last batch. I was on a roll and couldn't stand the idea of postponing the last batch of soda bread.

Despite the relatively consistencies in each of the batches, they all turned out a little bit different as you can see in this picture.
When I was attempting to get the first batch in the oven, I was talking to my mom on the phone. I got so distracted that I forgot to include the egg. I didn't realize this until batch 1 was on its way out of the oven and batch two was nearly headed in. But, don't fret. A quick little google of "Irish Soda Bread without egg" led me to several reputable recipes that assuaged my fears. Even the mixing of flours in batch 4 was accounted for in Mark Bittman's version.

Irish soda bread also comes together remarkably fast. It might be the quickest thing that I've made over the past few years. There is no muss or fuss with it, especially if you have a stand mixer as your disposal. My four batches were able to be whipped up in about 3 hours.

Here's how it goes ... and don't be afraid to make this outside the month of March. Maybe it'll help you find a pot of gold.

(Step 1) In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients. Cut in Crisco (or butter if you want) until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the raisins and caraway seeds.

(Step 2) In a bowl, combine buttermilk and egg; stir into crumb mixture just until flour is moistened (dough will be sticky).

(Step 3) Drop dough onto a sheet pan (lined with tinfoil) and mold into the shape desired. Shape? I like it more flat because it bakes more quickly. I often split the dough into multiple loaves so that it is easier to share with friends

(Step 4) Cut a X, 1/4-in. deep, in the center of the ball. Top loaf with sugar (like 1/2 T for big loaf)

(Step 5) Bake at 400 degrees F for about an hour or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Smaller loaves obviously take less time – like 35-40 minutes? Big loaf takes about 50-60 minutes.

Shopping List
4 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons of Crisco
3/4 – 1 Cup of raisins
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 egg
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Bonus picture? Here I am at the Back Bay post office mailing out 6 loaves of bread to friends and family. It's organized chaos ... and not cheap. Irish Soda Bread is a smidge bit dense so it costs a little more than you'd expect to mail them.

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