Spotted Dog is a classic traditional Irish comfort food. It’s essentially a slightly sweetened Irish soda bread with raisins running through it, hence the name, Spotted Dog. My Grandad used always make white soda bread, he was great at making it, and never used any measurements. In our house, our soda breads are always brown, with the exception for this loaf which my Dad made once, donkey yonks ago.
My poor pops travelled all the way down to Ballymaloe to pick me up a copy of Darina Allen’s “Ballymaloe Cookery Course” cookbook, which is incredible by the way, it is the perfect tome which contains pretty much any and every classic recipe you could ever need. Anyway while browsing through the cake and bread sections (always my first port of call), I came across Darina’s Spotted Dog recipe and decided to give it a go for old times sake. I followed the recipe exactly with the exception of soaking my sultanas in whisky and orange juice the night before for a bit of extra juiciness.
This is so incredibly easy to make, and so satisfying. My favourite comfort foods come in bread form, hot from the oven and slathered with butter. This is delicious, really soft on the inside with a slight sweetness from the sugar and sultanas, but with a lovely crust on the outside. This is best with butter and jam, but apparently also very nice with cheese. It is also gorgeous toasted with butter when a day or two old.
450g plain white / cream flour
1 tsp bread soda
1 tsp salt
1 dessert spoon sugar
Splash Whisky (optional)
Splash Orange Juice (optional)
- I soaked my sultanas in whisky and orange juice the night before which plumped them out nicely, and gave them a lovely juiciness. This is an optional step, but don’t worry the bread doesn’t taste of whisky, you can barely taste it in the sultanas, but it’s a nice subtle addition.
- Sieve the flour and bread soda into a large mixing bowl and add the salt, sugar and fruit. Mix together by lifting the flour and fruit up in your hands and letting them fall back into the bowl through your fingers (this apparently adds more air, making the bread lighter).
- Crack the egg into a measuring jug and then add the buttermilk until you reach 400ml (the egg is part of the liquid measurement), so this could be a little more or less than 350ml of buttermilk.
- Make a well in the middle of the bowl of flour and pour in the liquids. Mix together using your fingers drawing the flour from the outside of the bowl into the centre until it’s fully combined (the key to a great soda bread is not to over mix the dough). Pop the dough out on to a floured surface, wash your hands and with flours fingers, roll lightly for a few seconds, just to tidy the edges together.
- Put the round of dough onto a floured baking tray and pat lightly on top to even it out. Take a sharp knife and cut a deep cross on it, letting the cuts go over the edge. Prick each angle with a knife (according to Irish folklore this lets the fairies out… long story).
- Pop into a hot oven preheated to 220C for 10 minutes, then decrease the heat to 200C and bake for a further 35 minutes or until cooked. It is cooked when if tapped on the base it sounds hollow.
- Serve warm with lashings of butter and a blob of jam… Perfect.