All this has no impact on how much I love St Patrick’s Day. The holiday is sacred around our house; the Irish half of the family roots are proudly displayed and touted. I’m doing my part - by baking soda bread from a family recipe. I might even hoist a bottle of Harp or more than one), though not while I'm measuring the ingredients for a batch of Sister Mary's Soda Bread.
Cousin Pat must have gotten an A in penmanship (as we used to call it), as you can see. Do they still teach cursive script in elementary school? They should, so people can pass down special recipes like this one on lovely cards instead of emails.
This soda bread is for our daughter, Eleanor, who will be carb loading soon for the Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon on St. Patrick’s Day. As I made the loaves, I couldn’t help thinking of my late mother-in-law. I think she would have gotten a kick out of her Jewish daughter-in-law using her niece’s recipe (from a nun) to make soda bread for the next generation.
Sister Mary’s Irish Soda Bread – adapted by MotherWouldKnow
Servings – 1 large or 2 smaller loaves Cost – $6.54 for 1 large/2 smaller loaves
Note: I’ve upped the sugar from 1 tablespoon to 4, switched from raisins to currants and used “Buttermilk Blend” instead of liquid buttermilk. Also, my favorite Irish guy doesn’t like caraway, so I halved the amount and included it in only 1 of the 2 small loaves made from this recipe. My version is below.
- 4 cups all purpose flour + extra for hands and board when shaping dough
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) sugar
- 2 tablespoon caraway seeds (optional)
- 1 cup currants (dried black grapes – smaller than raisins)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 cup buttermilk (or 4 tablespoons of Buttermilk Blend + 1 cup water)
- 1 cup yogurt
- Measuring cup for liquid(s)
- Measuring cups for solids
- Measuring spoons
- Large fork for mixing
- Large bowl for dry ingredients
- Small bowl for liquid ingredients
- Small knife
- Cookie sheet with parchment or silicone mat, or greased and floured
- Turn on the Irish music. I enjoyed several Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem albums, then the Chieftains album The Long Black Veil, with Van Morrison, Mick Jagger and others.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees and put parchment paper or silicone mat on a cookie sheet.
- Mix the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and sugar in the large bowl. Add the raisins or currants and the caraway seeds.
Mix again to disperse the seeds and dried fruit throughout the dry ingredients.
- Mix the egg, buttermilk, and yogurt in the small bowl. (Note: if using Buttermilk Blend – a powder, you add the buttermilk powder to the dry ingredients and use 1 cup of water instead of the cup of buttermilk.)
- Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients in the large bowl and stir until combined.
- The dough will be quite sticky at first.
On a clean, well floured counter or table (I use a Roulpat mat because it keeps my kitchen neater and is non-stick, but you don't need one) and after dusting your hands with flour, shape the dough into 1 or 2 balls and knead the dough or “bounce” it in your hands until the outside of the ball becomes smooth.
Don't be afraid of the dough - go at it. And keep water and a towel handy because your hands will have dough on them when you're done.
- Gently place the loaf or loaves on the cookie sheet. I’ve seen a note in another recipe that suggests cutting a cross in the top of the loaf to drive away demons and another recipe that simply calls the cut a deep “X”. I may not subscribe to the religious or demon-chasing rationales, but I do like to make the cut on top of the loaf.
- Bake 1 large loaf for 1 hour, less time for 2 loaves – until a knife inserted comes out clean.