Though most commonly attributed to Ireland, American Indians were the first people to use pearl-ash (baking soda’s predecessor) to leaven their bread. The Irish version appeared in the late 1830s, when baking soda first appeared in the United Kingdom. Ireland’s financial strife at the time also led to its creation, as it used so few ingredients. A cross marked on the top of the bread was thought to ward off evil and protect the household. This untraditional version (above) is known as “Spotted Dog” thanks to the raisins.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Cut in the butter (using a pastry cutter or two forks) until it resembles coarse meal or crumbs. Stir in the caraway seeds and raisins.
Mix the buttermilk and egg in a separate bowl. Stir them into the dry ingredients until just moistened. Don’t over stir, but try to get the dough to come together.
Turn everything onto a well-floured surface and knead lightly until smooth (about 2 minutes). Use well-floured hands as the dough will be sticky. Shape into a ball and place on a greased, flat cookie sheet. Pat down to form a 7-inch round loaf. Cut a 4-inch “X” into the top, about ½ inch deep. Brush the top with some buttermilk. Bake about 45–50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool at least 10 minutes and serve warm with butter.
Store tightly wrapped for 3–4 days or freeze for 2–3 months.