Irish Soda Bread

This bread is perfect with soup or stew. Don't bother slicing it—just break it off into hunks.

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons shortening
2/3 cup raisins, optional
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375˚ F. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and sugar. Using a pastry blender, work in shortening until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the raisins and caraway and mix well. Gradually stir in the buttermilk, 1/4 cup at a time, until dough forms. Knead dough for 1 to 2 minutes and shape into a round loaf. Place on a greased baking sheet. Cut an X on the top, 1/2 inch deep and over the sides of the loaf.

Bake for 45 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on wire rack.

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