I can’t imagine celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day without a little soda bread, so called because it gets its leavening from baking soda rather than yeast. This is my favorite recipe to date for this treat. It comes from a now defunct store in Summit, New Jersey, called the Irish Cottage. Every year the store had a soda-bread contest, and this was one of the staff’s favorite winning recipes.
If you don’t have a way to use a quart of buttermilk, you may buy buttermilk powder in the baking section of large grocery stores. Add the required amount to the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder, and use water when the recipe calls for the buttermilk.
4 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold butter, cut into six pieces
1 cup dried cranberries (you may substitute raisins or currants if you like)
1-1/3 cups buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
green sprinkles (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a large cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. With two knives or a pastry cutter cut in the butter. When you are finished there should be only tiny bits of butter left. Add the cranberries.
In separate bowl (or a 2-cup measuring cup) mix the egg, buttermilk, and baking soda. Combine them with the flour mixture, stirring just until the dry ingredients become moistened. Form the dough into a ball.
On a lightly floured wooden board knead the dough for 3 to 5 minutes. Form the bread into two mounds, place them on the prepared cookie sheet, and gently make a cross on the center of each mound with a serrated knife. Add a few sprinkles if you like. Bake the mounds until they are golden brown in spots, about 35 to 40 minutes.
Makes 2 small loaves.