Irish Soda Bread

Despite the fact that my name is Shannon Marie, I am not Irish.  At least, my family has not originated in Ireland for hundreds of years.  {Update:  New family geneology has shown that we are in fact Irish, from the mid-1800's.  Not that anyone but we give a shit.}Yet, in honor of St. Patrick's Day, I am inclined to make Irish Soda Bread.  

This bread is typically made in Ireland to serve with the evening supper.  There are a few theories as to why one cuts an X into the top.  As cooks, we know it will aid in cooking more uniformly.  It is said too, that cutting into the loaf before baking lets the faeries out.  Or it could be a sign of the cross in a country with a heavy Catholic population.  

Irish Soda Bread tastes a bit like sourdough bread - it leaves a slight tang on the tongue.  The crust is crunchy and the insides are chewy.  This bread is heavenly with butter and marmalade.  It's equally yummy as-is to mop up the remains of your beef stew.  For an unusual snack, try warming the bread and topping with some bittersweet chocolate.  

Irish Soda Bread

1 lb. unbleached flour (about 4 c.)
1-1/2 t. salt
1-1/2 t. baking soda (make sure it's fresh!)
2 cups (1 pint) buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450*.  Do not start mixing until the oven is at temp.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, salt, and baking soda.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture.  Add about 1-1/2 c. buttermilk to flour.  Using your hands, pull the flour into the buttermilk, lightly mixing as you go.  Add more buttermilk or flour as necessary to form a soft dough.

Using care, gently form the dough into a disk (no kneading).  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Pat the disk into a 2-3" tall round.  Cut a deep X into the top of the dough.

Immediately place in oven.  After 5 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 400*. Bake an additional 20 minutes or until golden brown and bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.  

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