Living in a fast paced, instant-gratification city such as New York, I find it necessary to slow down from time to time for a moment of solitude. Too often, I find myself looking to the future and using technology as my streamline to convenience. And yet, last night, on the eve of St. Patrick's Day, I found myself in my own kitchen making Irish Soda bread.
Typically made with few ingredients, Irish soda bread doesn't require a lot of effort. For one, it's a quick bread (using baking soda, rather than yeast, to make it rise) and the main ingredients are typically flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. I found that its simplicity was exactly what I was looking for in that moment. As I reached into the cabinet to get the ingredients I couldn't help but be mentally transported back to Ireland.
Taking part in the traditions of my ancestors made me beam with pride. Using simple ingredients to produce a comfort food baked with love and intention was a joyful experience. As soon as I put my hands in the dough, it felt instantly therapeutic. I kneaded and kneaded, bringing together the wet and dry ingredients in a marriage of flavors. The sweet smell of the bread baking in my oven brought me back to my childhood, when I couldn't wait to find that foiled-wrapped piece of soda bread that my mom would put in my lunchbox on St. Patrick's Day. This simple pleasure, taking notice of my family's traditions, really put me in tune with my own existence. It felt genuine in a city with such fleeting pleasures.
Unfortunately, St. Patrick's Day is too often thought of solely as a day to imbibe to the point of inebriation. I found comfort in engaging in a deep-rooted tradition that truly celebrates my Irish heritage, which is too often not given the respect it deserves on this day. If you are keen to make my Irish Soda Bread, you can find the recipe below.
Irish Soda Bread
3 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoon butter (melted)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 cups of raisins
1 handful of caraway seeds
Preheat oven to 350F. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, beat eggs, buttermilk and melted butter. Add to dry ingredients until just moistened, then gently fold in raisins and caraway seeds. Place dough in a buttered 9″ ; cake pan. Bake for one hour, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the bread comes out with only a few crumbs adhering to it.
This post was originally published in March 2012.