Here's a question for you all: Why, oh WHY is buttermilk only sold in half gallons? I'm convinced that no one can use a whole half gallon before it sours, unless you're in the midst of some sort of buttermilk biscuit marathon (ummm... if you have one, please invite me! YUM).
After buying buttermilk for the bacon-apricot cornbread, the remains of the half gallon stared at me each time I opened the refrigerator, shouting, "Malnourished children in Africa would want me! Don't let me go to waste!" I knew I had to find something to do with it, and something quick enough to fit into the 2 hours after my evening tennis lesson.
I don't know a whole lot about my heritage but I do know that when I was a kid we took a family pilgrimage to Scotland, Ireland and England and that there was lots of time spent in old cemeteries, some plaid purchased, and a monster searched for in the Loch Ness. I was old enough to remember the chill of the country but young enough to only remember eating two things: UK McDonalds cheeseburgers ("OMG! It tastes the same as it does at home...!!!")... and Irish soda bread. I got the bug for the traditional quick bread then and it's been a secret indulgence ever since.
For some unfair reason, most US grocery stores/bakeries don't carry soda bread unless it's St. Patrick's Day, and when they do they include these horrifying seeds that I can't figure out. What is a caraway seed anyway? Traditional soda bread recipes don't even mention caraway!
Well, they also don't include chocolate... but like any good baker, I baked "for my audience" tonight (me) and substituted chocolate for the raisins and cinnamon for the caraway to make a warming sweet treat. While not quiiiite true to my Irish heritage, it was the perfect way to end a tired day with a little love in my tummy.
Irish Soda Bread with Raisins and Caraway
Adapted from Bon Appetit
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp. baking power
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes, room temperature
2 1/2 cups raisins (I used semi-sweet chocolate chips and will add dried cherries next time)
3 tbsp. caraway seeds (I omitted and added 2 tsp. cinnamon in its place)
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg
Preheat oven to 350 F. Generously butter heavy ovenproof 10-12 inch diameter skillet (I used two 8-inch cake pans). Whisk first 5 ingredients in large bowl to blend. Add butter; using fingertips, rub in until course crumbs form. Stir in raisins and caraway seeds. Whisk buttermilk and egg in medium bowl to blend. Add to dough; using wooden spoon, stir just until well incorporated (dough will be very sticky).
Transfer dough to prepared skillet; smooth top, mounding slightly in center. Using small sharp knife dipped in four, cut 1-inch-deep X in top center of dough. Bake until bread is cooked through and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 15 min. Cool bread in skillet 10 minutes. Turn out onto rack and cool completely. Can be made 1 day ahead - wrap tightly in foil, store at room temperature.