March is the perfect time to bake a traditional Irish Soda Bread and after trying several versions, this one from Cooks Illustrated is a favorite. For a more traditional soda bread, reduce the sugar by half and omit the raisins. If you're in the mood for more Irish fare for St Patrick's Day - try making a Guiness Beef Stew or some Colcannon (Irish Mashed Potatoes) or take a trip to Dublin and stay at one of my favorite hotels,The Merrion, which I wrote about in an article for Huffington Post - A Visit to the Merrion Hotel
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1 cup cake flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
4 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup raisins, golden raisins, or currants (or combo of dark and golden raisins)
1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk flours, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt in large bowl. Work softened butter into dry ingredients with fork or fingertips until texture resembles coarse crumbs.
2. Add buttermilk, egg, raisins, and stir with a fork just until dough begins to come together. Turn out onto flour-coated work surface; knead until dough just becomes cohesive and bumpy, 12 to 14 turns. (Do not knead until dough is smooth, or bread will be tough.)
3. Pat dough into a round about 6 inches in diameter and 2 inches high; place on greased or parchment-lined baking sheet or in a cast-iron skillet. Cut a cross shape into the top.
4. Bake until golden brown and a skewer inserted into center of loaf comes out clean or internal temperature reaches 170 degrees, 40 to 45 minutes, covering bread with aluminum foil if it is browning too much. Remove from oven and brush with some melted butter; cool to room temperature, 30 to 40 minutes