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Weekend Recipe: Skillet Soda Bread

Skillet Soda Bread
Photo: Courtesy of Cook's Illustrated

This recipe wasn't passed on by an Irish grandmother of someone at Cook's Illustrated, but nevertheless tested out rigorously to achieve an authentic crumb that would make Nan proud. Eat it while it's still warm with butter and jam, or make it a complete meal served with poached eggs and smoked salmon.

Skillet Soda Bread
Makes 1 loaf

INGREDIENTS

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups low-fat buttermilk
1 tablespoon melted butter, optional

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INSTRUCTIONS

If you do not have a cast iron pan the bread can be baked on a baking sheet although the crust won't be quite as crunchy. Soda bread is best eaten on the day it is baked but does keep well covered and stored at room temperature for a couple of days after which time it will become dry.

1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees and adjust a rack to the center position. Place the flours, soda, cream of tartar, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and rub it into the flour using your fingers until it is completely incorporated and the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and add the buttermilk. Work the liquid into the flour mixture using a fork until the dough comes together in large clumps. Turn the dough onto a work surface and knead briefly until the loose flour is just moistened. The dough will still be scrappy and uneven.

2. Form the dough into a round about 6 to 7 inches in diameter and place in a cast iron skillet. Score a deep cross on top of the loaf and place in the heated oven. Bake until nicely browned and a tested comes out clean when inserted into the center of the loaf, about 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with a tablespoon of melted butter if desired. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

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