My mom has two recipe cards written in her mother’s hand. One is for Irish Stew, the other is for soda bread. My mom remembers her father once making soda bread. He put a ton of baking soda in it and it was pretty awful. He insisted that that was the way his Irish mother made it. In retrospect it probably was. Apparently true Irish soda bread is made with just flour, buttermilk and baking soda, and it sounds like it’s hardly worth eating. Nanny found this recipe so Pop could stop making his. My mom has always made this soda bread for St. Patrick’s Day, and we all scoff at any other. It’s not too sweet or too cakey, and its made with raisins, no caraway seeds.
- 4 cups sifted all purpose flour [I went back and forth trying to decide whether she meant sifted flour or flour, sifted but I finally decided sifted flour was right.]
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 to 1 1/2 cup seedless raisins
- 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
Mix and sift flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. [See this is what got me confused about when I was supposed to sift the flour. I actually sifted the flour, then measured it, then sifted it again to combine with the other dry ingredients.] Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Stir in raisins. [This part she left out: Whisk together the egg and the buttermilk. Stir in the baking soda. (The chemical reaction between the acidic buttermilk and the baking soda causes the leavening.)] Combine the buttermilk mixture into flour mixture until just moistened. Bake in greased 1 or 1 1/2 quart pudding pan or casserole at 375 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until golden brown.
Turn it out of the pan and allow to cool slightly before cutting. Its delicious still warm, slathered with butter.