I think the first time I had Irish soda bread was last St. Patty's Day. I tried my hand at baking it not even knowing what it was supposed to taste like! Then I bought a loaf and was shocked at how sweet it was. Is it supposed to be that sweet? So, this year, I researched some more recipes and then experimented with my own. I'm very happy with the results and so were my neighbors who were over for bunco.
If you're curious, the reason it's called soda bread is because it's made with baking soda instead of yeast, making for a super quick and easy bread. It's really kind of like a giant biscuit. But with raisins. And caraway seeds. But it's good and you should try it :)
Update: Thanks to my friend Rachel for sharing a great soda bread website with me. It explains that traditional Irish soda bread is not supposed to be sweet at all and should actually only include flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk (or soured milk). It also says that when you add raisins and sugar it's called "spotted dog" or "railway cake." While I thoroughly enjoyed my "spotted dog," I definitely want to try a traditional bread next time.
Spotted Dog (Irish Tea Cake) Recipe
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder (aluminum-free)
1 tsp baking soda (aluminum-free)
scant 1 tsp salt
1 cup raisins (soaked in hot water until plumped then drained)
1-2 Tbs caraway seeds, depending on taste (I did 1 Tbs this time but will do more next time)
2 eggs at room temp
1 1/4 cups buttermilk at room temp (If you don't have buttermilk on hand, put 1 Tbs lemon juice in a 2-cup measuring glass, then fill up to the 1 1/4 mark with milk, stir, and let sit out a few minutes before using)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9" round cake pan or spring form pan. Mix dry ingredients in large bowl. Stir in raisins and caraway seeds. Beat eggs into buttermilk in a small bowl or in the glass measuring cup you used to measure out the buttermilk. Make well in center of dry ingredients, pour in melted butter and buttermilk/egg mixture. Stir gently, folding until flour is all moistened but don't over mix. Dough will be very sticky. Transfer dough to prepared pan and gently form into a round shape in the middle of pan, patting down the top just a bit. The dough will not necessarily touch the sides of the pan. That's okay as it will fill in and up as it bakes. Cut a large "X" in the top of dough, about a 1/2" deep. Bake for one hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan a few mins then turn out onto wire cooling rack.