Wildly Fruity Soda Bread

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

If you have never baked bread before, this cross between a big scone and a batter bread is a great place to start. You can whip this up with confidence, because you have the best of both worlds: a resilient, understanding batter (verging on a dough) that yields a very tender result. It's hard to go wrong!

This tart bread presents the perfect excuse to open that gift jar of exquisite preserves or marmalade you've been waiting to since the holidays to sample.

  • You may subsitute whole wheat pastry flour for up to half the unbleached all-purpose flour.
  • Leftover cooked grains lend a delightful chewiness and some good nutrition. I recommend brown rice, wild rice, millet--and especially barley. You can experiment here.

Nonstick spray for the pan
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup currants or golden raisins
1/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup chopped tart apple (about 1 medium-small apple)
1/4 cup minced prunes

1 cup cooked whole grains
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly spray an 8-inch pie pan with nonstick spray and set aside.
  2. Combine the flour, oat bran, corn meal, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and orange zest in a medium-sized bowl. Add the brown sugar, and rub it in with your fingers until the mixture is uniform. Stir in the dried fruit.
  3. Measure 3/4 cup buttermilk into a 2-cup liquid measure. Add the egg, and beat gently with a fork or a small whisk until well blended. Slowly pour this mixture into the dry ingredients, adding the melted butter at the same time. Using a spoon or a rubber spatula, stir from the bottom of the bowl until the dry ingredients are all moistened. Don't overmix; a few lumps are okay.
  4. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan. Use a rubber spatula and/or your hands to shape the dough into a smooth mound. (If using your hands, lightly flour or wet them first for easier handling.)
  5. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean and the bread is golden on top. Remove to a rack to cool, then wait at least 15 minutes before slicing, otherwise it will seriously crumble.
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