Greetings my friends! ‘Tis a blessing to be Irish indeed!
Today (in case you haven’t heard) is the day that we celebrate the great St. Patrick! There were a lot of things that I could do with this post – and I got it in at the last minute because I was still deciding what exactly to do to give justice to St. Patrick.
I could do a biography on St. Patrick, but that’s already been done. I could write about How the Irish Saved Civilization, but there’s a whole book on that – which I encourage you to read by the way (even if you’re not lucky enough to be Irish) – it discusses at length how the Irish monks saved the Bible and many other books in Europe and will cause you to pause & think about how our world could be very different if the monks hadn’t preserved learning. I could write about Corned Beef & Cabbage (which is considered “New World Irish” and isn’t actually eaten in Ireland by the way – although I’m still making it for St. Patrick’s Day dinner!)
St. Patrick’s Day is still the Feast Day of one of the most popular saints, but it has also become a day that’s more a day of pride in Irish heritage. Although if you’re Irish you know that you’re not just proud of being Irish on St. Patrick’s Day… Let’s face it, I’m more German (3/8) than Irish (1/3) but you’ll hear me talk about my Irish heritage so much more than my German.
I decided to focus my post today on one of my St. Patrick’s Day traditions: the making of authentic Irish Soda Bread. As this site describes, much of what people call “Irish Soda Bread” is actually not authentic so it’s always been very important to me to make my Soda Bread the way that they do in Ireland. Sadly, I can’t give a link or a resource for my recipe because I copied it down out of an Irish Cooking cookbook that my mom had years ago, and it got downsized when they moved. It’s similar to the recipes on the site I linked above though.
Gather your ingredients and supplies
You’ll need All Purpose Flour, Baking Soda, Salt & Buttermilk – that’s it. You’ll also need a large mixing bowl, a strainer for sifting dry ingredients, a spoon and measuring devices.
Preheat the oven to 425.
Measure 4 level cups of all-purpose flour
Then 1 teaspoon of salt & another of Baking Soda (also level)
Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and sift them to make sure there’s no lumps (and it also aerates them). I apologize for not getting good pictures of either of these steps.
Make a well in the dry ingredients
Slowly add the buttermilk. The recipe calls for “approximately 14 ounces” but you have to add just enough to have all the dry ingredients mixed in, but you don’t want the dough too sticky.
I’ve found that it’s almost easier to just get in and mix the dough with my own two (freshly washed) hands.
When the dough is well mixed knead it slightly on a lightly floured surface – this will help make sure that it’s in a well-formed lump and not two pieces.
Then place it on a cookie sheet (some recipes call for the cookie sheet to be greased so you can if you want – it helps in the “is it done yet” part of the process) and cut a cross by pressing a knife down in the dough about an inch deep.
The “chef’s reason” for this step is to release extra air from the dough, but Irish tradition says that you do this step to release the evil spirits from the dough. I don’t know about you, but if I’ve done all of this the last thing that I want is evil spirits ruining my bread loaf!
And bake in the oven that you pre-heated to 425 earlier for approximately 35 minutes.
After 35 minutes lift the loaf off the cookie sheet, flip it over (this is the strange part) and tap on the bottom. If it sounds hollow (you’ll know the sound when you hear it) it’s done. If it doesn’t then you need to put it back in the oven. It will also look golden brown (I had flour on my hands so that’s the white on the finished product). The hollow sound really is the key. Place it on a wire rack to cool.
After the bread is slightly cool wrap it in a tea towel to keep the Banshees from getting your bread.
Some recipes say that you should allow the bread to cool for at least 6 hours before slicing and enjoying. I can never wait 6 hours. I just wait until it’s cool enough to hold on to while slicing. Butter is the perfect accompaniment. Enjoy and imagine yourself sitting in Ireland telling stories and enjoying a taste of days gone by.
Enjoy your St. Patrick’s Day my friends. My prayer for each of you this day is summed up perfectly in a great Irish blessing:
May you always have work for your hands to do
May your pockets hold a coin or two
May the sun shine bright on your window pane
May the rainbow be certain to follow each rain
May the hand of a friend always be near you
And may God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you
And because St. Patrick’s Day is about the Irish I will also offer an Irish toast for you. Grab your Guiness and raise it high
May those who love us, love us
And those who don’t love us,
May God turn their hearts
And if He can’t turn their hearts
May He turn their ankles
So that we will know them by their limping