400 g. (about 3 1/2 C.) Janie’s Mill all-purpose flour
3 g. (1/2 tsp.) salt
4 g. (3/4 tsp.) baking soda
1 1/2 C. buttermilk (add more if needed)
1/2 C. black raisins (optional)
Heat oven to 450°. Place the flour in a large wide bowl and add the salt and baking soda. Stir to distribute dry ingredients evenly. Add raisins if using.
Make a well in the center and pour in all the buttermilk. With your fingers stiff and outstretched, quickly stir in a circular movement from the center to the outside of the bowl in ever increasing concentric circles.
When you reach the outside of the bowl, the dough should be made. Add a little more buttermilk if needed to incorporate all the flour. The dough should be soft but not wet and sticky.
Sprinkle a little flour on the worktop and turn the dough out onto it. Sprinkle a little flour on your hands. Knead the dough lightly for a few seconds, then pat it into a round about 1 1/2 inches thick.
Place on a buttered baking sheet and using a sharp knife cut a deep cross in the center of the dough reaching out all the way to the sides (this is called “blessing the bread”). Then prick with a fork in the center of each of the four sections “to let the fairies out.”
Bake for 15 minutes then turn the oven down to 400° for another 15 or 20 minutes. The top should be a deep golden-brown, and the bottom should sound hollow when tapped. Serve warm, slathered with Irish butter.
Variations: For brown soda bread, replace half the all-purpose flour with whole kernel flour or dark rye flour.
For cheese-topped scones, after the soda bread has been shaped, flatten it out and cut into pieces to form scones. Brush tops with an egg beaten with a little milk, dip tops into shredded cheese and bake 10 minutes in a 450° oven.