This is another recipe that I have already shared in my breakfast column, but it is so ridiculously fantastic, I feel like I need to share it in every corner of the internets that I have any sort of vague jurisdiction over. It must be sounded from the rooftops like a yawp. Make this soda bread, you won’t regret it!!!!!
Soda bread, to me, is a promise. It’s the promise of warm, crusty, home baked bread ready in no time flat. When you decide to smudge together a soup or salad for dinner from the remainders in your fridge and you need a hunk of bread to round it out, or when friends drop by unexpectedly for midmorning coffee and you would like to offer a snack, soda bread can be tossed together and in the oven before your soup is warm, before your friends have taken off their shoes, and it will be practically done baking by the time you’ve canvassed the subject of the weather.
Soda bread is the promise of home baked bread without having to deal with the vagaries of yeast’s moods or the planning and wait time a yeast bread requires. But, soda bread is all too often only good in the minutes right after it comes out of the oven. When it is shiny, fresh, and new, and the smell from the opened oven is so intoxicating that it doesn’t fully matter what the loaf itself tastes like. And then it often, tragically, goes almost instantly stale and dry, or cakey and dull, like an old scone.
This soda bread, on the other hand, has none of those problems. It is remarkably perfect. It is moist but not cakey, crumbly but not dry, and amazingly flavorful. It also keeps quite well. The most amazing thing about it is it accomplishes all this with almost no ingredients. It is one of the most austere soda bread recipes I’ve seen, so much so I almost didn’t give it a try. It has nary a pat of butter nor splash of oil nor pinch of sugar nor an egg, nor anything else that would give you an inkling that it was going to turn out exceptional. But it does. It blows any other soda bread I’ve tried out of the water, and is so good I find myself wanting to bake it instead of scones, and if you know anything about me and scones, then you know that that is cah-razy.
And here is all it takes: You dump some flour, salt, and baking soda in a bowl; stir in grated carrots, raisins, and buttermilk; dump it in a pan, and bake. You end up with a fantastic sweet-savory loaf, flecked with orange confetti (or if you’re using multicolored carrots as I did, you get bits of purple and green as well, which is fun). The carrots and raisins in there give subtle, natural sweetness and depth of flavor. (To quote myself from my column, hehe) If you are expecting the kind of carrots-in-baked-goods flavor you get in a carrot cake or carrot muffin, you will be surprised — that flavor is really cinnamon, and you won’t find it here. The flavor in this bread is pure carrot, the flavor of soil and starch, and it’s quite wonderful. Especially when spread thickly with butter.
I’ve been enjoying it for breakfast, snack, and as a dinner accompaniment. And though it was eaten all too quickly, happily it won’t take much time or effort to make another loaf!
- 4 cups flour (white or a mix of white and whole-wheat)
- 2 teaspoons baking soda (or shall we call it bicarbonate?)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1½ cups shredded carrots
- 1¾ cups buttermilk
- 1 cup raisins
- Heat your oven to 400° F. Stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl, then make a well in the center.
- Add the buttermilk and grated carrot to the well, then stir until everything is combined. Add the raisins and work them into the dough either with a wooden spoon or with your hands (a slightly sticky process, but doable), which also serves to briefly knead the dough into a very sticky shaggy ball.
- Turn the dough out into a 9-inch cast iron skillet (or similarly sized heavy baking pan). Bake until crusty and brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped, about 40 minutes.
- Remove the loaf from the pan and allow to cool (at least partially) on a cooling rack before tearing in.