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Irish-American soda bread is a sweeter, lighter, more interesting riff on the original Irish soda bread, a simple combination of flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk. No eggs, no sugar, no raisins or caraway seeds... all of those came later. And in America, land of "too much is just enough," the formula became richer still, with the addition of butter, and yet more sugar. The following soda bread tastes like a sweet, rich scone, a tiny bit crumbly but moist enough to hold together nicely when it's sliced. We bake it in a tall, round pan, to give it its classic shape. Though you can use raisins or currants, we prefer the tinier currants, as they spread themselves more evenly throughout the loaf.
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) buttermilk (or 1 cup milk + 1/2 cup yogurt)
1 cup (5 ounces) currants or golden raisins, firmly packed
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 tablespoon milk, for glaze
1 tablespoon coarse sugar, for topping
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the eggs, and beat on high speed until the mixture is thick and light-colored, about 2 minutes. Stir in the baking powder, baking soda, and salt, then 1 cup of the flour. Gently beat in half the buttermilk (or milk/yogurt mixture), then another cup of the flour. Add the remainder of the buttermilk, and the final cup of flour, mixing until smooth. Stir in the currants and caraway seeds.
Spoon the mixture into a lightly greased 8" x 3 1/2" round pan (or a 9" x 3" round pan), one whose capacity is at least 5 1/2 cups. A souffle pan or panettone pan is a good choice. Drizzle the milk atop the batter, and sprinkle with the sugar.
Bake the bread in a preheated 325°F oven for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Tent a sheet of aluminum foil over the top for the final 15 minutes, if it appears to be browning too quickly. Remove the bread from the oven, wait about 5 minutes, then carefully turn it out onto a rack to cool. Allow the bread to cool for at least 1 hour before slicing. Yield: about 12 servings.
Alternatively, spoon the batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Bake the bread in a preheated 375°F oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.