I love Triple Raisin Spotted Dog, especially around holiday time, for lots of reasons other than its awesome name and rugged good looks. It’s a dense, luxuriously rich, bread-like cake with a veritable avalanche of raisins mixed into the batter – so versatile you can serve thick slices for breakfast, brunch, or with coffee, yet decadent enough to take a rightful place on the dessert table. But maybe the best thing about it is how much bang you get for your healthy baking buck. It’s easy to throw together and contains no refined sugar, but looks and tastes like it came from the best bakery in town. And as a bonus round, you can even use leftover slices (if you have any) to make glorious peanut butter sandwiches.
History In Edible Form
There’s something romantically old-fashioned about the look and taste of this soda bread cousin. In fact, soda bread does have a long history, which I was surprised to learn didn’t start in Ireland. Indigenous Americans were using pot ash (potassium carbonate for the technically minded) as a leavening agent long before Europeans arrived. Newly immigrated cooks latched on to this brilliantly simple baking method, and in 1796 soda bread made its first cookbook appearance, in Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery.
Soda breads and cakes hit big outside of America in the mid 1800’s, when bicarbonate of soda was first marketed as a rising agent. According to Wiki, Australian, Scottish, Polish, Serbian and Irish cooks began using soda in recipes around this time, which tended to be hearty, sort of rough-and-ready preparations. For example, damper, an Australian soda bread, was meant to be easily prepared by farmers at work in the bush.
Everything you ever wanted to know about Irish soda bread and its relatives like Spotted Dog can be found at the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread‘s website, and it’s well worth checking out. To make a long and Masterpiece Theater-esque story short, in the early 1900’s when most of the U.K. (and presumably Europe) began using highly glutinous, yeast-friendly hard wheat flour, Ireland didn’t. They continued to use soft wheat flour, mostly imported from the U.S., which rises poorly with yeast but quite nicely with the addition of baking soda and something acidic like buttermilk or sour milk. And so, soda bread became something of an identifying food for the Irish.
According to the Society, true Irish soda bread is made using only flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk or soured milk. If you add raisins and sweetener, you’ve got yourself a cake, which you’ve every right to call Spotted Dog in traditional Irish fashion.
Triple Raisin Spotted Dog
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup Stevia In The Raw (sucralose should work, too)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt substitute (or salt)
3 cups raisins
2 eggs (or 1 ripe banana beaten with a pinch of cornstarch until creamy, or 2 “eggs” made with Ener-G egg replacer – if you don’t care for “eggy” tasting baked goods, I recommend using a substitute no matter your dietary preferences)
1 1/4 cups buttermilk (or 1 1/4 cups soymilk mixed with a generous tablespoon of white vinegar)
1 cup sour cream, either soy or regular (I used fat free and couldn’t tell the difference)
1 tablespoon flour for decoration
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9″ cake pan or cast iron skillet.
Combine all the dry ingredients (except the decorative flour) in a large bowl, whisking to mix thoroughly. Stir in the raisins. In another bowl, combine the wet ingredients. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until everything is just mixed – be careful not to over-mix. Flour your hands and knead the dough about 10 times right in the bowl. It’s going to be extremely sticky. Transfer the dough to the greased pan, and attempt to pat it into a semi-neat roundish shape. Cut a decorative slit or two into the top of the dough, dust it with a tablespoon of flour, and bake for about 65-70 minutes.
Serve Spotted Dog as you would a dessert bread, saving a few slices to treat yourself to one of the best peanut butter sandwiches ever.