It’s not actually my grandmother but can’t we all be just a little bit Irish on St. Patrick’s Day? This grandmother is my good friend Maura’s, whose recipe for grandmothers Irish soda bread came on the boat to Ellis Island with her in 1916. Just 16 years old, she left Ireland named Bridget and changed her name to Beatrice because there were too many “Irish Bridgets” in Newark NJ where she settled. Grandmother Beatrice continued to make Irish bread every day like she did back in Ireland in a cast iron skillet over an open fire and eventually an oven. Like any great recipe, Beatrice learned it from her mother who learned it from her mother, making it a 6-generation recipe…and counting! While my grandmother was making matzo balls in another country, I have no doubt if these two home cooks could have miraculously gotten together, they would have been great friends.
About cast iron skillets: Cast iron skillets literally last for generations and the older, the better. Don’t let the dark, heavy look turn you away. Cast iron is a reliable conductor of heat for optimal cooking. The more you use it, the more “seasoned” it gets creating a natural non-stick surface.
Irish “soda” bread? The ingredient of baking soda combined with buttermilk helps the bread to rise. This makes Irish soda bread a “quick bread” similar to banana or zucchini bread. Just like the name says, Irish soda bread can be made quickly since it contains no yeast resulting in no rising time before it’s baked.
Not just for St. Patty’s Day: Here are three reasons to bake Irish Soda Bread year ‘round: 1) Sticky bun French toast 2) Beef n’ beer chili 3) Angry egg salad
- 1-cup sugar
- 4 cups flour
- 1-tablespoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- 1-teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut up
- 2 large eggs
- 1 ½ cups buttermilk
- 1-cup currants or dark raisins (optional)
- 1-tablespoon caraway seeds
- Rich Irish butter for serving
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch cast iron skillet or use a well-seasoned one.
- In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With clean hands or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in raisins and caraway seeds. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, beat eggs, reserving 1 tablespoon of egg in separate bowl. Stir buttermilk into eggs, then, add to flour mixture. Dough will be sticky. Turn dough onto a floured work surface and kneed about 10 times to thoroughly combine ingredients. Shape into a ball and place in the skillet. In the center of the dough, cut a cross, about 4 inches across and 1/4 inch deep (this will help it cook evenly). Brush dough with reserved egg.
- Bake 45-50 minutes until golden brown and tester comes out clean. Cool, remove from skillet, slice and serve with rich Irish butter.