Showing posts with label Irish soda bread. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Irish soda bread. Show all posts

Friday, November 18, 2016

Thanksgiving Irish Cranberry Bread

Once again the American holiday of Thanksgiving rolls around and finds me out of the country, in Ireland. Having two very separate main branches to my family tree gets confusing: on my mother’s side, I can go back to the Mayflower, and one great-great-whatever managed the first grist mill in Plymouth; on my father’s side, it’s almost all dairy farmers in Cork and Carlow.

This year I’ve become the proud owner of a small Irish cottage in West Cork, in sight of where generations of my ancestors lived. It’s not ancient—probably built in the mid 20th century—but it still has a cast iron cook stove, which originally doubled as heating for the main sitting area. I’m guessing it’s still functional and it burns solid fuel: coal, wood, peat, and for all I know, household trash. Looking at it, I can understand why the Irish bake so much soda bread, both light and dark. I think it’s a safe bet that the temperature of the oven is a bit inconsistent, but soda bread is very forgiving. I’m looking forward to trying the oven out, after a good scrubbing.

Traditional Irish soda bread contains raisins or currants. As a nod to my American side, I’m swapping those for dried cranberries. After all, the corporate HQ of Ocean Spray is literally right down the road where I live, and I believe in buying local.

Cranberry Soda Bread


1-1/2 cups dried cranberries
4 cups unbleached flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
6 Tblsp granulated sugar
6 Tblsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
2 egg yolks
1 Tblsp Irish whiskey (optional, but this one comes from West Cork!))

2 Tblsp. crystallized sugar for sprinkling


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Put the cranberries into a bowl and pour boiling water over them to soften for a few minutes. Drain.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 6 Tblsp. sugar.

Blend in the butter with pastry blender, a pair of knives, or your fingers, until pea-sized bits form.

In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg yolks and whiskey if you’re using it (you could substitute vanilla extract if you like). Pour the liquids over the flour mixture and scatter the cranberries on top. With a wooden spoon, stir the mixture to form a moist dough. Knead the dough lightly in the bowl for 15 seconds.

On a lightly floured counter or board, divide the dough in half. Form each half into a rounded half-ball measuring 5-5 1/2 inches in diameter. 

Place each ball on the lined baking sheet, 5" apart. With a small sharp knife, slash the top with a cross. Sprinkle the top of each loaf with crystallized sugar.

Bake for 40 minutes or until the loaves are golden. Transfer to wire racks and let cool for 30 minutes. Serve with plenty of good Irish butter (try Kerrygold—I may have met some of the cows that contributed to that butter).

You Can Celebrate Thanksgiving Anywhere!

Coming in March 2017: Cruel Winter, the fifth book in the County Cork mystery series. There is a lot of new snow on the ground in West Cork, and an old crime to solve . . .

Friday, March 29, 2013

Irish Brown Bread

by Sheila Connolly

I've been racking my brain for any memories of Easter family dinners, but so far all I've come up with is chocolate.  Lots of chocolate.  I suppose my sister and I were too stuffed with bunny ears and foil-wrapped eggs and jelly beans and the like to eat much at the table.  I do, however, have a fond memory of my engineer father trying to drill holes in eggs with his electric drill so we could empty them, with mixed results.

Brown bread, or arán donn in Irish, is a staple of Irish meals, everywhere in the country. It appears from breakfast to dinner, usually accompanied by butter. It does not contain yeast, and any rising comes from the chemical interaction of buttermilk and baking soda.  It's quick to make, and it should be eaten the same day as it's baked.

I have been trying to make it on my own—and I've been having little luck.  I've collected, at last count, thirteen recipes, from Irish cookbooks (both high-end and pub food, and including one from the famous Ballymaloe cooking school in County Cork), friends, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the back of the Irish wholemeal flour package.  Guess what:  they're all different. No two alike. (And I'm not even counting the one from my former Irish teacher, an lovely older woman from Connemara, who doesn't even measure her ingredients.)

How can there be so much confusion about something that in its simplest form contains all of five ingredients?  The basic recipe has:  wholemeal flour (preferably coarse and stone-ground—Odlum's is the favored Irish brand, available by mail order), white flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk.  You combine the dry ingredients, make a puddle of buttermilk in the middle, and mix with your hands (but not too much or it gets tough).  Shape it into a round loaf, cut a cross in the top, and bake in a hot oven.  That's it.

In a perfect universe, maybe.  Me, I've ended up with a lot of chewy, doughy lumps. Great exercise for the jaw.

Then many sources start adding things to the basic recipe:  oat bran, oatmeal (both rolled oats and steel-cut), sugar, brown sugar, eggs, butter, honey or molasses.  Suggested cooking temperatures range from 375 to 450, in one stage or two.  And the proportions of wholemeal flour (which really does make a difference—using regular brown flour is definitely not the same) to white flour are all over the map too:  ratios range from  1:2 to 3:1 brown to white. The average ratio is just under 2:1 brown to white flour, but given the consistency of the Odlum's wholemeal flour, I'd tip it toward 1 1/2 to 1 (and the Odlum's package agrees; Ballymaloe pushes it even closer to half and half).

Irish Brown Bread (1 large loaf)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

3 cups wholemeal flour
2 1/2 cups white flour
1/4 tsp of salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups (full fat) buttermilk (plus more if needed)

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Make a well in the middle and pour in the buttermilk.  Mix quickly with your hands just until blended (overwork it and it will get gluey), adding more buttermilk if needed.  The dough should not be too sticky.

Make the dough into a ball and place it on a an ungreased baking sheet. Flatten it until it is about 2" thick.  With a sharp knife make a cross in the top (do not cut through).  Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 400 degrees and continue baking until done (you'll know it's done when it sounds hollow when you tap it). 

Cool on a rack.  Serve with lots of butter! (It's good with blackberry jam too.)

I wish I could tell you that this is the perfect recipe, but it's still not quite there (not gummy this time, but rather crunchy).  If anyone out there has a treasured recipe for Irish soda bread, I'll be happy to add it to my collection!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sweet Coffee-Glazed Mini Scones and a St. Pat's Cat from Cleo Coyle

My husband, Marc, and I made a new friend this past weekend. On St. Patrick's day, an abandoned kitten, about six months old, was obviously lost and hungry and mewing piteously for hours. 

Cleo Coyle, who loves cats
in (and out of) hats,
is author of The Coffeehouse
No one came to his aid, so we took him in, fed him, and got him to our local vet. He's doing fine and will soon be the newest member of our New York stray cat crew. I'll have photos and more news soon, but we're so pleased the little guy found us--and on St. Patrick's Day!

The video below is not mine, but when I saw it uploaded to YouTube, I thought of our new kitten and decided to share it in honor of our St. Pat's cat. Enjoy!

I also did a bit o' baking over the St. Patrick's Day weekend. As usual, I made my "Shamrock" Pistachio Muffins. (I love these babies. The batter tastes like pistachio ice cream and the ricotta adds nice moistness to the muffin, along with additional nutrition. And, of course, they're green. :))

I also baked up some sweet mini soda breads or are they buttermilk scones? You be the judge. I threw in some mini chocolate chips and tarted them up with a quick coffee glaze. Delicious slathered with butter and served with tea or coffee, just be sure to eat them warm. Cold they're not so hot, but warm they're a nice breakfast bread.

Cleo Coyle's
Mini Soda Bread Scones

This is an easy, sweet breakfast bread. The recipe is based on your basic Irish soda bread. With the addition of sugar and chocolate chips, it's really more of a buttermilk scone. They're easy to make and quite tasty when eaten warm with a cup o' tea or (of course...) coffee. ~ Cleo

Makes about 16 mini soda bread scones

2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup buttermilk (light is fine)

First preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Measure out all dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Pour in your 1 cup of buttermilk. Stir it up. When the mixture comes together, use a clean hand to finish mixing and kneading it in the bowl until you have a sticky ball. Break off golf ball size pieces and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake in a preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Pour your coffee or tea and serve warm, slathered with butter. For an extra sweet finish, glaze them up.

Quick Coffee Glaze

Using a fork, whisk 2 tablespoons of hot brewed coffee (or espresso) into 1 cup of sifted confectioners' sugar. With that same fork, drizzle the tops of the mini scones. 

NOTE: These are delicious warm, not so hot cold, so be warned. :)

F o o d i e
P  H O T O S

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of

To get more recipes, enter to win
free coffee, or 
learn about my books, including
my bestselling 
Haunted Bookshop series, visit my online coffeehouse:

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are national bestselling
culinary mysteries set in a landmark Greenwich Village 
coffeehouse, and each of the ten titles includes the 
added bonus of recipes. 

The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name Alice Kimberly
To learn more, click here.


Quick reminder to our Mystery Lovers Kitchen audience: Cleo Coyle and Lucy Burdette are appearing at MURDER 203!

If you're attending the MURDER 203 festival of mystery next month in Easton, Connecticut, be sure to stop by and say hi. You can register in advance or walk in the same day. More info about the conference here.
See you there!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Irish Soda Bread

Happy St. Patrick's Day

I have always loved St Patrick's Day. In part
I'm sure because I'm Irish, but I also love the
food, the parties, the food, the parades, the food, the
green beer, the food, well, you get the idea. When I realized my post
was on St. Patty's, the hardest part was deciding what recipe to share.

Luckily, my friend Wendy made this
recipe the other day (she found it on and it sounded
so yummy I had to try it. The dudes were
not down with the original caraway seed
and raisin version, so I had to tweak it
a bit to make two loaves , one plain and one
fully loaded. I tried both, however, and as
my youngest said, "This is the best bread ever!"

Irish Soda Bread

5 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, cubed and softened
2 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
1 large egg

1 1/4 cups raisins
1 1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds
2 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a large baking sheet,
knocking off excess flour. Whisk together first five ingredients.
Mix buttermilk and egg in separate bowl then add to flour mixture
until dough is evenly moistened but still lumpy.
Transfer half of the dough to a well-floured surface and gently
knead with floured hands about 8 times to form a soft but slightly
less sticky dough. Pat into a domed 6-inch round on baking sheet.
Add the raisins and caraway seeds to the remaining dough and knead
on well-floured surface. Place on baking sheet with the plain loaf and shape
into another domed 6-inch round. Cut a 1/2-inch-deep X on top of each
loaf with a sharp knife, then brush loaves with melted butter. Bake in
middle of oven until golden brown and bottoms sound hollow when tapped,
40 to 45 minutes. Transfer loaves to racks to cool completely.

The nice thing about the epicurious website is that it also gave a wonderful
history about this traditional bread. Irish chef Rory O'Connell shares this
bit of information:

Bread soda (named for bread soda -- or baking soda) was introduced
in the early 1800s and it suddenly meant that people who didn't have
an oven—and virtually nobody had an oven then—could make soda
bread. They cooked the bread in what's called a bastible—a big cast-iron
pot with a lid on it that would have been put right onto the coals or onto
the turf fire. The great thing about soda is that it was not so perishable
and it would have been relatively inexpensive. And they would have had
buttermilk from the cows [old-fashioned buttermilk is a by-product of
making butter] and they would have been growing wheat, so they would
have had flour.
Read More:

Jenn McKinlay
Available Now!

aka Lucy Lawrence
Available for pre-order now!

Irish Toast: May your pockets be heavy and your heart be
may good luck pursue you each morning and night.

Don't forget about our contest! We’re celebrating cupcakes now that
SPRINKLE WITH MURDER is out in bookstores near you! If you’d like to
win cupcakes from Crumbs Bake Shop, send us an e-mail at or leave a comment with your
idea of the wackiest cupcake ingredients you can think of. Tofu, anyone?

To celebrate the April release of CUT TO THE CORPSE, I am giving
away an autographed copy of the book. All you have to do is visit
the contest section on my web page (
and cast your vote for Team Nate or Team Dom. For those of you who
read the first book in the series STUCK ON MURDER, you know that
our heroine Brenna is going to have to make a choice! Help her out
and cast your vote today!