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Thursday, 18 August 2011

Irish Soda Bread

I've had good Irish soda bread and some that was hair-raising. One recipe I tried always fell flat for me, although the original recipe, made by someone else, was delicious. I suspect that an important ingredient got left out in the transmission. Another much-vaunted original Irish family recipe was bitter with soda. Another was just a big greasy scone. I had been using a whole wheat recipe from Britain, but it didn't rise much although the flavour was good. I never thought to look in a Mennonite cookbook for a recipe for Irish soda bread.

Edna Staebler had her original recipe from her great-grandmother, and published it back in 1968. So that's how old it is! I've had to modify it quite a bit to work with today's grocery store ingredients. People don't have buttermilk or soured milk sitting around anymore.

Equipment: Mixing bowl, wooden spoon, pastry blender or fork, two buttered cake pans or pie plates, floured board or countertop.

1/4 cup sugar (or less)
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups currants, raisins, dried fruit, or a mix
1/4 cup butter or shortening (I use lard)
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 3/4 cups sour milk - or buttermilk, or milk with 2 teaspoons of vinegar added, or 3/4 cup of milk and a cup of yogurt

Combine all dry ingredients, adding the fruit at the same time. Get the fruit stirred in well to the flour. Cut shortening into dry mixture. (Edna used her electric mixer but I use a pastry blender.) Stir the egg lightly into the milk, add to the dry mixture, and stir until blended through. Knead on a flour board for just a couple of minutes, until smooth. Divide in half, pat each half down into a buttered cake tin, slash top with an X and sprinkle with a bit of sugar. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 40 minutes. Good while hot, with lots of butter, or cold with a smidge of butter or peanut butter.

The loaf pictured at the top is whole wheat, no fruit, and I served it with homemade chicken noodle soup. You can modify the recipe in many ways. I love the bread with dried cranberries, golden raisins and the nutmeg. Currants and nutmeg is an excellent combination, too.


  1. Soda bread looks good do you got a picture of before you cut it?? Trying to figure out if mine looked like that... Smile...

  2. It's actually quite easy to keep buttermilk on hand. You just have to find some cultured buttermilk to use as starter. I have a quart mason jar that I use. Fill the jar 1/4-1/3 with buttermilk then top up with regular milk (we use 2%). Put on lid and leave on counter 24 hrs. The refrigerate for a few days, then it's ready to use. I just top up the jar every time I use it and let it sit out a few hours. It keeps so much longer than regular milk.

    Don't you just love Edna's recipes?! They are my go-to cookbooks.