St. Patricks day without Irish Soda bread is just not going to happen around this house. Not if my boys have any say. This is a hearty version, with some whole wheat and ground oats. Then, to snaz it up, rum soaked raisins! I cut it like a pie and serve with the corned beef dinner or shepherds pie. Slather with butter or eat plain.
First, set your raisins to soak. If you do not want raisins and orange peel, or just want plain raisins, just skip this step. In a zip lock baggie, put the raisins and rum to soak. Set aside.Dice up the orange peel and set aside. (or zest some orange peel if you don't have candied. I have an easy recipe for candied I will include next.)
Preheat the oven to 375. I use 2 pie tins lined with parchment for the loaves. (I have tried freeform but it spreads a little too much for my taste).
I like to pulse my oats in the food processor about 6-8 times. So do that next. To the same bowl add the other dry ingredients. (not the fruit). Pulse a couple times to blend.
Dice your cube of butter and add to the dry ingredients. Pulse about 6-8 times until it is small bits in the flour mixture. If you do not use a food processor, use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the dry ingredients. Pour all this into a large mixing bowl.
Now you can add your raisins, rum and all, and the candied orange peel. Mix in thouroughly to the dry ingredients.
Pour the buttermilk in and mix, either with a danish whisk or wooden spoon. Mix it until it is a whole cohesive mass. Like biscuits and scones, you do not want to over mix. If it looks too dry, drizzle in more buttermilk until it comes together.Put some flour onto a counter or cutting board. Flip the dough out onto the floured surface. Knead a few times,just 3 or 4 turns, adding fingers full of flour as needed if it is too sticky. It should be tacky, but not too goopy. Only knead enough to bring it together and give it shape.
Here is where I cut the dough in half to make 2 smaller loaves, and I will tell you why. I have made this many times and it says it makes 1 loaf.But what happens is the outsides get very done and the middle is still doughy. I end up cutting out the middle and end up with an Irish donut! So now I cut the dough in half and shape each into a nice round. Place each round into the parchment lined pie pan. Cut a large cross on top, about 1/2 inch deep or so. I sometimes sprinkle a little flour or sugar over the top. Place both pans onto a cookie sheet and put in the preheated oven.
Set the time for 30 minutes. Check the loaves. Make sure s straw or thin whatever inserted in comes out clean. It will probably have to go back in for another 5-8 minutes or even more, depending on your oven. I always use an instant read thermometer and bake it until it is approx. 180 degrees. Usually that means putting it back in the oven a couple times. It should have some browning on top and not look wet in the cross part. Let cool in pans 5 minutes, then set on wire racks. It tastes even better the next day.