Ingredients

Yield: Makes one loaf

4 to 4 1/2 cups flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 Tbsp butter
1 cup raisins
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1-3/4 cups buttermilk
  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Whisk together 4 cups of flour, the sugar, salt, and baking soda into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Using your (clean) fingers (or two knives or a pastry cutter), work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Add the raisins.
  3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add beaten egg and buttermilk to well and mix with a wooden spoon until dough is too stiff to stir. Dust hands with a little flour, then gently knead dough in the bowl just long enough to form a rough ball. If the dough is too sticky to work with, add in a little more flour. Do not over-knead! Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and shape into a round loaf. Note that the dough will be a little sticky, and quite shaggy (a little like a shortcake biscuit dough). You want to work it just enough so that the flour is just moistened and the dough just barely comes together. Shaggy is good. If you over-knead, the bread will end up tough.
  4. Transfer dough to a large, lightly greased cast-iron skillet or a baking sheet (it will flatten out a bit in the pan or on the baking sheet). Using a serrated knife, score top of dough about an inch and a half deep in an “X” shape. Note: Scoring will help heat get into the center of dough.

Transfer to oven and bake until bread is golden and bottom sounds hollow when tapped, about 35-45 minutes. (If you use a cast iron pan, it may take a little longer as it takes longer for the pan to heat up than a baking sheet.) Check for doneness also by inserting a long, thin skewer into the center. If it comes out clean, it’s done.

Hint 1:  If the top is getting too dark while baking, tent the bread with some aluminum foil.
Hint 2:  If you use a cast iron skillet to cook the bread in the oven, be very careful when you take the pan out.  It’s easy to forget that the handle is extremely hot. Use a pot holder!

Remove pan or sheet from oven, let bread sit in the pan or on the sheet for 5-10 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool briefly. Serve bread warm, at room temperature, or sliced and toasted. Best when eaten warm and just baked.

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