I decided that I would try the basic recipe that Mrs. O'Callaghan makes at the Ballinalacken Castle Country House and Restaurant. It is said to have a firmness to its texture and a sweetness that lingers after the first taste...why not try it?
What is soda bread? Soda bread originated about 1840 when soda as a leavening agent was introduced in Ireland. The bread is rather basic...flour, buttermilk, soda, butter...and in this recipe some brown sugar.
There is a cross cut in the dough prior to baking. There are said to be several reasons why the bread has a cross. One legend says that folks did it to "let the devil out" while it's baking...for good luck, and others say that it made it easy to divide into 4 pieces. The criss-cross was also a symbol for a cross during Christian holidays.
The recipe, as written, produced a dough that was anything but shaggy! After reading the reviews I see that most folks added another 1/2 cup of buttermilk which is what I am recommending. The bread's flavor was wonderful. I will be making this again.
Mrs. O'Callaghan's Soda Bread
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
3 cups all purpose flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled margarine or butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups buttermilk (add additional, about 1/2 cup, to get the dough to shaggy)
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Spray heavy baking sheet with nonstick spray. (I used a pizza stone.)
Whisk both flours, sugar, and baking soda in medium bowl to blend. Add margarine and cut in until margarine is reduced to pea-size pieces. Add buttermilk; stir until shaggy dough forms.
Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until dough comes together, about 10 turns. Shape dough into 7-inch round. Place dough on prepared baking sheet. Cut large X, 1/2 inch deep, in top of dough. (I made two six inch loaves instead of one.)
Bake bread until deep brown and bottom sounds hollow when firmly tapped, about 40 minutes. Transfer bread to rack and cool completely.