Friday, March 16, 2012

Best Soda Bread EVER

My husband Tom was very proud of the fact that both his parents were Irish immigrants.  He regularly visited the aunts, uncles, and cousins who still lived in Ireland and actually started the process of applying for dual citizenship, although he died before it was completed.  Naturally we always made a big deal out of St. Patrick's Day.  We had soda bread for breakfast, attended the local parade and/or an Irish music concert, and scarfed down shepherd's pie or corned beef and cabbage for dinner.  (The parade here in Phoenix, by the way, is a real hoot because half of the marchers are dogs from the local Kennel and rescue clubs.)

For the first few years we were together I made the soda bread from his Aunt Alice's recipe, which was good but tricky - if I wasn't extremely careful, it was more like a raisin-studded rock than a real food.  Then my friend Kathleen Batkiewicz brought some of her Irish mother's soda bread to work and I begged for the recipe.  This is the best soda bread I've ever tasted - so good that I've never been tempted to fiddle with it in any way.  So here is the one, the only, the original recipe for:

Mama Hession's Soda Bread

4 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 c. raisins
1 Tbsp. caraway seeds
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 c. buttermilk

Butter and flour a 9" square cake pan (1 1/2" or 2" high).  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all dry ingredients; add buttermilk and eggs.  Grease your hands with cooking oil and use them to mix everything thoroughly.  Pour the batter into the pan and bake for one hour; if the top starts to brown too rapidly, cover with aluminum foil.

CRUCIAL FINAL STEP: Store with aluminum foil and a wet towel on top to keep the bread moist.

I'll be making a batch this evening.  The only question - should I share this with anyone else in honor of the holiday, or just live off yummy soda bread by myself for the next two days?

"The immigrant's heart marches to the beat of two quite different drums, one from the old homeland and the other from the new. The immigrant has to bridge these two worlds, living comfortably in the new and bringing the best of his or her ancient identity and heritage to bear on life in an adopted homeland." ~Irish President McAleese

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