The last time I saw my Aunt Mae was in her bungalow in the village of Tullamore in County Offaly, Ireland. We spent the afternoon sitting at the kitchen table having tea and her freshly-baked soda bread while looking through the family photograph albums. She was a mere slip of a woman, barely 5′ tall, with a delightful sense of humor, ready to enthrall you with endless stories.
This may certainly be the same classic Irish Soda Bread recipe that everyone uses, but for me, it’s my Aunt Mae’s soda bread ….. and it’s delicious! Even if you aren’t someone who bakes, you can handle this one. It’s quick and easy. When you take it out of the oven, serve it up quickly with a big block of imported Irish butter. Nothing better!
Aunt Mae’s Soda Bread
This will make one large loaf or two smaller loaves. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Gather the following ingredients, a large mixing bowl, measuring cup and spoon and baking pan or dish. That’s it!
All purpose flour – 4 cups
Baking soda – 1-1/2 teaspoons
Salt – 1-1/2 teaspoons
Sugar – 1/4 cup (optional)
Raisins (dried cranberries or any dried fruit) – 1/2 cup
Buttermilk – 2 cups (the buttermilk interacts with the baking soda causing the bread to rise)
Put the flour, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl and mix together. I use a whisk to incorporate the dry ingredients thoroughly and lighten the flour a bit. Add the dried fruit and mix together. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in all the buttermilk. With a fork, stir quickly until the dough comes together. On a floured surface, tip the bowl over and work the dough with your hands into a nice smooth ball. Don’t overknead the dough. It will be soft. Form a ball (or two if you are making two loaves) and place it in a greased baking pan. Mine could have been a bit smoother. Cut a criss-cross slash into the top of the loaf, about 1/2″ deep. This will allow the loaf to cook evenly. It will expand (or open up) as it bakes. Bake for about 50 minutes to an hour. It should sound hollow when the bottom is thumped and a cake tester should come out clean (no crumbs). If you want to add a bit of sugar for sweetening, add it to the dry ingredients. You may also brush the top of the loaf before baking with an egg wash or milk for a shiny crust. Be sure to put the kettle on, because you’re going to want a hot cuppa with a slice of Aunt Mae’s Soda Bread!