Irish Soda Bread
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I got this recipe from the Internet, and it is a favorite because it does not call for any yeast.  That means that you can skip what I think is the hardest part about bread making – the rising of the dough.  The baking soda is the leavening agent instead of yeast.  The buttermilk is also an important part of this recipe so I do not substitute regular whole milk.  The buttermilk helps the baking soda activate and produce the CO2 that makes the loaf rise. For the dough: 4 cups all purpose flour (not self rising) 4 tablespoons sugar 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 tablespoon baking powder ½ teaspoon salt ½ cup butter at room temperature 1 cup buttermilk 1 egg, beaten lightly For the brushing mixture: ¼ cup butter, melted ¼ cup buttermilk Use a really oversized bowl and mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  You can sift these ingredients together to make certain that they are mixed thoroughly.  Make a little well in the center of the dry mixture and add the 1 cup buttermilk and the egg and stir to combine. Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and flour your clean hands well.  Knead the dough by pressing it with the heels of your hands and pushing the dough away from you, then folding the dough over on itself.  Repeat this for no more than 30 seconds or so.  Kneading is necessary to make the dough shiny and elastic, and the elasticity is what gives the finished bread the home baked texture we all enjoy.  But too much kneading releases too much of the CO2 that is making the bubbles that gives the bread the air pockets it needs.  Less air pockets means bread that is too dense, so don’t knead past the recommended 30 seconds. After kneading, the dough will be fairly elastic and sticky.  Use your floured hands to form the dough into a round loaf shape and cut an ‘X’ across the top and just over the sides.  The cut will help the bread expand and rise properly.  Brush the loaf with the ¼ cup melted butter and ¼ cup buttermilk mixture.  Place the loaf gently onto a lightly greased or floured baking sheet.  At this stage you want to handle the loaf gently so that even more bubbles do not escape.  Bake the loaf in a well preheated 375 degree oven for 35-50 minutes, depending on your oven, humidity, freshness of the flour, etc.  Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick to see if it still comes out wet.  Another way you can tell if it is done is to tap it on the bottom; the loaf will have a hollow thump sound if it is done. Irish soda bread is best served hot or warm, and does not age well because it tends to dry out fast so store it well in a bread or cake safe or cover the loaf with a dishtowel sprinkled with some water.