Saturday, February 13, 2010


When St Patricks Day approaches, the stores beging to stock their shelves with 'Irish Soda Bread'. Only one small problem..........It's NOT IRISH SODA BREAD !
Nope, sorry to burst your bubble but it simply isn't Traditional Irish Soda Bread! Consider it's origins. We were a poor nation. This was an easy to make all-in-one mixture that was made with buttermilk. Buttermilk being a by product when making butter. Wholemeal flour was more widely available. Baking Soda was added as a leavining agent.
The average Irish home in the 1800's did not have an oven so thay baked the bread in a pot known as a 'Bastible'. This pot was hung/suspended over an open fire and baked.
Raisins were never used. These were imported and if anything were a luxury for the Irish. When white flour was added, this was indeed for a special occassion.
There are various myths/reasons behind the sign of the cross. Some think it was done to "let the devil out". Others say it made it easier to divide and was a symbol for "Breaking Bread". Being a catholic country, I'm pretty sure it did indeed have religious implications, however the baker in me also says it had a lot to do with the chemistry of baking........distribution of heat !

Recently, I gave the recipe to Chef and Cook Book Author Lauren Braun Costello. Lauren has written 'Notes On Cooking' and 'The Competent Cook'. Founder of Gotham Caterers, she has also worked as a private chef,culinary instructor,recipe tester for 'The joy of Cooking' food stylist for 'The Early Show' and has appeared on 'The View'. I asked her to let me know what she thought of this recipe when she made it.
So, true to her word she did !
We both made the bread last week. Lauren in snowy New York and I in snowy Dallas !
Here is what she wrote.

"IRISH SODA BREAD IN THE BIG APPLE............This bread screams 'hearty' from the outside in. It's nutty and earthy flavor is a far cry from the currant and caraway-studded sweet bread we consider, perhaps erroneously, to be Irish Soda Bread. This authentic version has an honest,unambiguous taste of a rugged and rich homeland. Just good,old fashioned BREAD! And with a healthy spreading of salted Irish Butter...lets just say it won't last long. But that's ok. It's easier than pie to make!"

3 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons wheat germ
2 teaspoons rolled 2 teaspoons rolled oats for sprinkling
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 quart buttermilk

Pre Heat Oven to 375 degrees.
In a large bowl mix all dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and add liquid ingredients. Mix together well, trying not to handle too much. Form a ball gently with your floured hands. Do not work this bread like traditional yeast breads. Sprinkle with remaining oats.Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, make a cross in the bread with a sharp paring knife and bake for 45 minutes. Cool on wire rack.


  1. ok, so what was that bread (with the caraway and raisins) that my Irish grandmother made? seriously - i've been making her recipe for years and that's what she called it. it's thee most delicious bread.

  2. Yea for Rachel...I've been telling people this for years! I never saw soda bread with raisins in it when I was in Eire, thanks for this informative post and I'll make your version soon...Patricia

  3. Thanks for sharing! I'll have to try it.I made a soda bread recipe twice out of saveur magazine.It was supposed to be a traditional irish whole wheat soda bread but I could never make it work.It was so dry.And i bake bread every once in while usually yeasted like challah,or french ,with success(i'll be happy to share).I'll definately try your recipe,it sounds delicious!