Friday, March 11, 2011

My Great Grandmother Peg Stanton's Irish Soda Bread

3 cups white flour
1 cup oats (quick or old-fashioned)
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 - 2 Tbsp. caraway seeds (optional)
2 cups raisins
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1 tsp. baking soda
1 egg
additional flour for kneading
1 egg yolk (optional)

- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Mix flour, sugar, salt and baking powder together in a large bowl. Stir in caraway seeds.
- Cut in small pieces of butter.
- Add raisins and stir to distribute well.
- In a separate container, combine buttermilk, egg and baking soda. Stir into the flour mixture until just moistened.
- Begin to knead mixture into a large ball, adding more flour as needed. (I have found that doing this right in the bowl is the easiest way. It takes a bit of scraping together to make the dough whole unto itself and ready to knead.) Knead lightly until smooth and shape into a large round loaf.
- Place into a greased cast iron skillet or 2 quart casserole. Cut a large cross on top (to keep the leprechauns away - otherwise they may steal your children, or so I've been told).
- If desired, brush top of loaf with an egg yolk to make it glossy.
- Bake for approximately one hour.
- Cool before cutting. Serve at breakfast (soda bread goes great with scrambled eggs) or at teatime. The soda bread can be eaten plain or buttered.

My mother (who is 100% Irish) remembers growing up surrounded by a tribe of Gaelic-speaking family and friends in Brooklyn during the 1920s. On the way home from school on cold winter days, she loved to stop in at her grandmother Peg Stanton's house to warm her hands in front of the coal stove in the kitchen. If Mom was hungry, she helped herself to a piece of her grandmother's Irish soda bread that was always ready and waiting, wrapped in a clean tea towel in the middle of the table. "No sooner were you cutting into it than she was at the stove baking another," Mom recalls. She taught me how to make it, and I like to send her a loaf every now and then. Mom is age 92 and has stopped baking.

I did make one change to the recipe when I substituted a cup of oatmeal for some of the flour, to make the bread a bit healthier. You can also use some wheat flour if you like. When I went to Ireland years ago, I sampled many types of soda bread and they were all different. At Christmas time, I sometimes use dried cherries or cranberries instead of raisins. Also, you can make two round loaves or shape the dough into scone shapes, in which case the baking time may be shorter.

Erin Go Bragh!


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Jeffrey Shallit said...

So wouldn't that be your great-grandmother Peg, then?

LoneStarLibrarian said...

You are right Jeffrey - thanks for catching that! KAO

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