British Bites

Classic British dishes updated for the modern American cook.

British Bites: Soda Bread with Port-Soaked Raisins

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[Photograph: Sydney Oland]

If you're looking for a quick bread to go with your afternoon tea, or your morning fry up, look no further than the humble soda bread. Raisins or currants are an expected addition, but soaking the raisins in port before adding them to the dry ingredients gives them an extra boozy sweetness that really livens up this simple bread.

Although a common bread throughout parts of Britain, soda bread is often associated with Ireland. There are two soda breads typically served in Ireland: the classic white version, as well as a sweeter wholemeal version sometimes called wheaten bread.

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Some attribute the X-cut in the top of most soda breads as Christian in origin, although the real reason may be more functional. The scoring on the top of the loaf allows it to rise up, and not out, during the first rise in the oven.

Most people like to top their soda bread with a variety of jams and jellies, but in my book, there's nothing like some soft salty butter. Soda bread is sweet by nature, and a lightly salted butter brings out those hints of sweetness even more. A nice slice of soda bread slathered in butter and some hot milky tea can make a rough morning or tiresome afternoon turn around.

About the author: Sydney Oland lives in Somerville, Mass. Find more information at sydneyoland.com (or read eatingnosetotail.com)

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