Friday, March 17, 2006

Grandma Gallagher's Soda Bread

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I hope everyone is sipping some guiness and wearing green :) I made 4 loaves of Grandma Gallagher's Irish Soda Bread last night. Soda bread is unique because it is made with out yeast, but still rises. This is because of the mixture of buttermilk and baking soda. You might notice a cross in the top of the loaves. One of your Irish friends might tell you that this is to “let the devil out”, but really it’s so that when the bread rises quickly, it doesn’t completely crumble. It's a very dense bread that tastes like a scone and is great with butter, honey, maple butter, or apple butter.
I'm going to make a few more loaves tonight for a party that I'm going to - and maybe some Bailey's Fudge, too! For kickball this week, I made fudge brownies with Bailey's Frosting. It was a huge hit, but because of the resulting food comas, our team was massacred. Ah, well :)

Here is the recipe for Grandma Gallagher's Soda Bread:
4 cups All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 Cups Raisins
4 Tablespoons Butter -softened (I use Unsalted Sweet Cream Butter)
1 Tablespoon Baking Soda
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 cups Buttermilk
1 egg


  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Soak the raisins to make them plump. I put them into a bowl with water and microwave them for 1 minute. Then I drain them and set them aside.
  • Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl (flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt) until well blended.
  • Cut the butter into the mixed dry ingredients. I use my hands. Press the butter into the mixture and continue to mix until the ingredients resemble cornmeal - ie, are crumbly.
  • Mix in the (now plump) raisins.
  • Lightly beat an egg in a small bowl with a fork.
  • Pour 1 1/4 cup of Buttermilk (save 1/4 cup for later) into the bowl with the egg. Stir together with the fork.
  • Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.
  • Slowly Pour the Buttermilk and Egg blend into the well in the dry ingredients.
  • Fold the dry mixture over the buttermilk blend with a wooden spoon. Softly stir until the dry ingredients soak up the buttermilk blend.
  • Flour your hands.
  • Take the very moist and sticky dough and softly knead the dough for just a minute or so. You want the dough to be moist, not stretchy (over kneaded) or dry. Dry dough = very bad. If your dough is really dry/cracked, it won't bake correctly... so add in more buttermilk in Teaspoons at a time until it has the right consistency.
  • Divide the dough into 2 balls.
  • Grease a baking sheet or two pie pans (either work fine).
  • Place each ball on the sheet.
  • Cut a cross in the top of each ball. The dough will not bake correctly without the cross.
  • Pour the remaining Buttermilk Blend (1/4 cup) over each loaf. Pour into the cross and then use your hands to coat the top of the loaf.
  • Bake for 30 mins.
  • Bread is ready when you insert a toothpick into the center of the loaf and it comes out clean. If the center of the bread is not finished after 30 mins of baking and the outside is baked, put the oven on warm and let the bread sit for 5 more minutes.

VARIATION: My friend Erin coats hers with melted butter and then a heavy sprinkling of Cinnamon Sugar. Yummilicious!

It's not exactly the same as my Grandma's, but it's pretty dern close - which is awesome because she never wrote hers down and never measured anything! My mom came up with the above, I think, and I think it works very well. I think I want to play around with the recipe a little and see if I can get a larger, creamier, flatter loaf.



Tina said...

Thank you for sharing the recipe of your Grandma's bread! Was she Irish or no? I love making bread when I'm in the mood. I printed the recipe out and can't wait to try it. Thanks again!

MollyBolly said...

Yup - she was Irish and came over to the US when she was in her early 20's. Enjoy the bread, it's delicious.