While my Irish ancestry runs deep, I had never experienced the traditional Irish-American meal of corned beef and cabbage until college, when my friend Beth hosted an elaborate St. Patrick’s Day celebration. Years later we still reminisce about her amazing and authentic feast, which included one St. Patrick’s Day tradition that was familiar to me from childhood: Irish soda bread. Beth recently shared her recipe with me, and I am now inspired to start my own tradition of making this bread every St. Patrick’s Day!
Beth is an interior designer with wonderful creativity in the kitchen. Her recipe, which she learned from her grandmother, includes buttermilk, sour cream, raisins, and baking powder instead of baking soda. Beth recommends enjoying the bread with a cup of Irish breakfast tea. One option is Mark T. Wendell’s Irish Breakfast Tea, which Bonnie recently reviewed at Thirsty for Tea. I have not yet tried this tea and am looking forward to enjoying some in the near future.
For anyone seeking a bolder accompaniment, Beth has another suggestion. The other day she hosted an Irish coffee social, where she and her neighbors enjoyed her Irish soda bread with Irish coffee: a mixture of coffee and Irish whiskey (Beth used Jameson’s) topped with freshly whipped cream and a dash of cinnamon and/or nutmeg. Coffee-flavored drinks don’t appeal to me (not even whiskey!), so my tamer option was a nice cup of herbal tea, Mint Medley from Bigelow Tea.
Grandma’s Irish Soda Bread
- 3 cups of flour
- 3/4 cup of sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 4 teaspoons of baking powder
- 2 tablespoons of shortening
- 1/4 cup of buttermilk
- 1 cup of raisins
- 3/4 pint (1 1/2 cups) of sour cream
- Preheat oven to 350º
- Sift together flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.
- Add shortening and buttermilk. Mix until well blended.
- Add raisins.
- Mix in sour cream until dough forms.
- Grease and flour cast iron skillet.
- Add dough to skillet.
- If desired, carve an X into the top of the dough.
- Bake in skillet for 30 minutes. Check on the status.
- Bake for another 20-30 minutes.
- If needed, cover with foil for the last 15 minutes or so to prevent the raisins from burning.
Since I did not have a cast iron skillet, I substituted with a round cake pan. Also, raisins are not my favorite flavoring and were omitted. And my overall presentation, including my attempt to draw an X on top, needs work. Yet even with my little flaws and adjustments, the outcome was a delight. My bread was moist and sweet and dense, with a taste that was familiar and yet still a revelation. Making this Irish soda bread left me even more in touch with my Irish and Irish-American roots and the traditions of St. Patrick’s Day. Thanks to Beth for sharing her grandma’s recipe!