Cranberry Orange Soda Bread

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Individual Cranberry Orange SODA BREADS

4 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup dried cranberries tossed with 1 teaspoon flour
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold butter cut into 1/4“ cubes
1 1/2 cups cold buttermilk, well-shaken
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon grated orange zest
4-6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Make the bread:
        Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 rimmed half sheet pans with parchment paper, or grease very well. Set aside.
        In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add the flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. Run on low to combine. Add the cubed butter and mix on medium-low until crumbly. Alternatively, in a large bowl, you could use 2 knives or a pastry cutter to incorporate the butter. Add the cranberries and mix just to combine.
        In a large measuring cup, add the buttermilk, egg and orange zest. Mix lightly with a fork. With the mixer running on low, slowly add the buttermilk mixture. Mix only long enough to incorporate all of the ingredients---not a second more! about 15-20 seconds. Spray an ½ cup measure with cooking spray and scoop out ½ cup portions of the dough onto the prepared pan, 5 to a pan. Respray the cup as needed.
        Using a floured knife, or razor, cut a ½” deep “x” on the top of each one, re-flouring the knife after each cut. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, remove the pan from the oven, and brush each bread liberally with the melted butter. Return to the oven and bake another 10-15 minutes until golden brown and a skewer in the center comes out clean. Alternatively, if you have an instant read thermometer, when they reach 210 degrees F, they’re done.
        If there’s any left, they can be stored at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap. They freeze really well too.

Makes 10 individual loaves.     YUM!

LESSONS Learned:
1. Make sure the butter and buttermilk are cold.
2. Once the buttermilk mixture is added, mix the dough only long enough for all of the flour to be incorporated, and NOT ONE SECOND MORE!
3. You can change up the loaf by substituting 1 cup (or more) currants or raisins for the cranberries and omitting the orange rind. Adding 1 -2 Tablespoons of caraway seeds can add a savory twist.
4. Size doesn't matter here, except of course for their oven time. To make them mini size, use a ¼ cup measure, and bake about 20 minutes. To make one large loaf, you could simply dump the batter into a cast iron pot lined with parchment. Bake covered for about 45 minutes, remove cover and bake for another 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
5. Wash those dishes right away. You'll thank me later.