My most cherished recipes are hand me downs, from family members and friends. When I married my half Italian husband, his mother and sisters taught me their treasured Italian grandmother’s recipes. One of the more fascinating aspects of cooking is how each one of us interprets a recipe, how we make it our own. An example, my sister’s in-laws fry their meatballs, I bake mine.
In my family, the recipe that’s been handed down and interpreted the most is, Nanny’s Irish Soda Bread. Nanny was my great-grandmother who died long before I was born. My mother has wonderful memories of being in her grandparent’s apartment in Brooklyn. When she was with them, she felt loved, heard Gaelic, and was fascinated with her grandmother’s mesmerizing blue eyes---I had to get mine from someone.
My grandmother stayed true to Nanny’s recipe, still remembers proportions and ingredients, even though she hasn’t baked in years. But my mother and her sisters, makes Nanny’s Soda Bread a little differently.
For this St. Patrick’s Day, I thought it would be fun to do a comparison and see how the recipe has changed over the generations. In the pictures, you’ll see a third loaf which is Barm Brack Bread or Irish Fruit Bread. I didn’t want to make this post too long so I’ll be posting the Barm Brack Bread separately.
Nanny’s Irish Soda Bread
2 ½ C Flour
½ C Sugar (grandma says, sugar to taste, around ½ C Sugar)
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
1 C Buttermilk
½ stick of butter
Don’t preheat the oven. Don’t worry you’ll understand why.
Generously butter a cast iron pan. Cast iron is traditional and preferred it makes the crust crunchy.
In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter until it’s incorporated and crumbled. Mix in currants. Stir in buttermilk until just incorporated and the dry ingredient are wet, add more buttermilk if you need to. Don’t over stir. Pour batter into pan.
Make the sign of the cross in the batter. Seriously. Nanny and Grandma swear by it.
Now preheat your over to 350. You want to let the batter rest for 10-15 minutes, which is about how long it takes for an average oven to heat to 350. Bake for 45-60 minutes, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Mom’s Irish Soda Bread
3 C Flour
1 ½ tsp Salt
1 TBS Baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¾ C Sugar
1 ½ C Currants
1 ¾- 2C Buttermilk
2 Eggs, well beaten
1 TBS Caraway seeds
4 TBS melted butter, cooled slightly.
Preheat oven 350. Generously butter a cast iron pan. Cast iron is traditional and preferred it makes the crust crunchy.
Sift dry ingredients together. Toss in currants. Add wet ingredients and caraway seeds. Mix until just incorporated. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
The major difference between the two breads is the use of eggs and caraway seeds. But what I think is more interesting, is why did my mother and her sisters stop, marking the bread with the sign of the cross? Which do I prefer? To answer those questions, more investigation and soda bread is needed.
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