Sweet, raisin studded Irish soda bread is an easy quick bread perfect for St. Patrick’s Day.
Wanderlust? Yes, I have it. Traveling is among the things that make me insanely happy in life.
So, it’s really no surprise that somewhere in the depths of my computer files sits a document with a list of places: Tuscany, the French countryside, the sculpture-like Sydney Opera House … It’s my travel bucket list — a list of the places that I want to visit. It’s pretty long, filled with places inspired by literature, movies, music and travel magazines.
Then there’s Ireland, the land of pubs, brilliant green landscapes, pints of Guinness and Ballymaloe Cookery School. Ireland has also produced some of my favorite music — from U2 and Van Morrison to The Pogues and The Saw Doctors. It sits at the top of the list.
I’ve wanted to travel to Ireland for years, attracted to the rows of colorful homes, grand castles and, of course, the charming Irish accents. Someday, my kids and I will spend time there.
In the meantime, my attention is on St. Patrick’s Day, a day for celebrating the patron saint of Ireland (who, in reality, wasn’t actually Irish). In my house, we skip the Americanized tradition of corned beef and cabbage on March 17 for more authentic Irish food like Dublin coddle or bangers and mash.
We also enjoy Irish soda bread, a vastly under-appreciated quick bread, with a smear of soft butter. Much like scones, good Irish soda bread isn’t dry or flavorless — though if you’ve only had supermarket interpretations, you might think of it as such. I like my Irish soda bread on the sweeter side, dotted with raisins (but no caraway seeds for me!).
Recently a public relations person sent me the formerly top-secret Irish soda bread recipe from the Caldwell House Bed & Breakfast in Salisbury Mills, New York. One look and I knew I wanted to try it.
I made some slight changes to the recipe — doubling the raisins, omitting the caraway seeds and adapting the method for making it in my stand mixer –but basically stuck with the inn’s signature recipe created by Grandma Finneran, the ancestor of innkeepers John and Dena Finneran.
The bread, which is made in a loaf pan, was delicious — lightly sweetened and teeming with raisins, moist but dense. We loved it hot from the oven with butter.
Before receiving the recipe though, I wasn’t familiar with the Caldwell House B&B, despite it being located in the Hudson Valley, not far from where I grew up. Apparently this modernized inn was once a refuge for an Irish family that fled their country during the 1798 Irish Rebellion. Today, its friendly innkeepers receive rave reviews from guests (or so I read on travel sites).
Guess what? My travel bucket list just got a little longer.
- 3½ cups all-purpose flour
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 cup raisins
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a bread loaf pan.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and raisins. Stir with a spoon.
- Add the eggs, buttermilk and melted butter. With the stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, knead the dough until smooth and sticky.
- Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and bake for 60-65 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool slightly before serving with butter.