Preheat oven to 500°. Sift all dry ingredients together well. Cut butter into small pieces and using a wire pastry blender, cut it into dry ingredients until it is crumbly and the texture of coarse corn meal or oatmeal. Add buttermilk all at once and with a table fork, stir round and round, just until all dry ingredients have been moistened. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and very gently and sparingly, knead until it comes together.
(Geraldine?s note: ?Actually, you are just sort of shoving the bits and pieces together. It doesn?t matter if there are a few cracks in the surface. Over kneading will make a tough loaf.?) Form into a round about 6 or 7 inches in diameter. Place on a baking sheet that is lined with parchment. Cut a shallow cross in the top and place in preheated oven. Bake for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350° and bake for another 25 minutes. Remove from oven, wrap in a clean cloth and serve hot. Do not slice. Slicing hot bread will compress the crumb and ruin the texture. (Says Duncann, ?Just break off pieces and slather with as much fresh butter as your arteries can stand.?)
*You may substitute 1 tablespoon of baking powder for the baking soda, in which case you do not need to use buttermilk. You may use plain milk or even water. You may also increase the sugar to half a cup and add half a cup of currants if you wish.
Makes 1 loaf. Properly made, this is a moist, crumbly delight, best eaten hot from the oven.