Grandma Gert’s Irish Soda Bread

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! We began the day with green milk and Irish soda bread for breakfast and will be wrapping up what’s left of the holiday with frozen pizza. It’s almost 6 pm out here in the Midwest. The sun is still shining. The skies are blue and filled with the promise of spring (50°– still a bit chilly for me, but I’ll take it!).

I grew up in a town that celebrates St. Patty’s Day with a big parade down Main Street and pubs bulging with people wearing shades of green. Just about every year, following church, my family would take our place along the parade route and wait…and wait…for the first sirens to scream or the shots to blast a patriotic gun salute.

One year when I was a kid, my grandparents took me to the parade. We nabbed a great sunny spot on the corner across the street from my elementary school at the time. Bag pipes began to blare as men in kilts came marching by. Over the music, I shouted to my grandmother, “What do they wear under their kilts?” Before Grandma Gert could get out her best guess, I dropped to an army crawl position and tried as best as I could to take a peak.

Grandma told that story over and over again every year around this time–she even told it to my own children. Her reminiscing always ended with a generous laugh, that to this day I can still hear.

This is her Irish soda bread. There’s not a lick of Irish in any of us–Gert included, yet she embraced this holiday like she embraced every occasion that would gather us all around the table. She told me she had gotten the recipe from an Irish woman who lived in her building when she and my grandfather were first married. I know she’d love that I’m still making it, thinking of her all the while.

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 1/3 cup buttermilk

1 egg yolk

Preheat the oven to 350 F

Whisk to combine flour, baking soda, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender or two butter knives in a scissoring, criss-cross motion, cut in the butter.

Add raisins, mix well.

Gradually add buttermilk, mixing together until you have a soft (and slightly sticky dough). Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, 1 minute only.

Shape into two rounds loaves and place each on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Flatten each loaf slightly and score an “X” across the top of each.

Beat egg yolk with a teaspoon of cold water, then brush the top of each loaf with the egg mixture.

Bake 30 to 40 minutes until nicely browned.



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