Camille’s Cooking: Irish Soda Bread
BY CAMILLE ORRICHIO LOCCISANO
As a little girl, I attended St. Patrick’s Elementary School in Brooklyn. There I was with my olive complexion, pitch black hair, dark eyes and a very Italian name. This meant that I couldn’t fake being Irish every month of March even if I were so inclined. However, March rolled along every year, and my family enjoyed the St. Patrick’s Day season along with our many Irish friends.
My Aunt Pauline would cook up huge pots of corned beef and cabbage. In salute to our Italian heritage and in honor of the fact that St. Patrick was a Roman, she also prepared green spinach pasta. I always thought that was a stroke of genius on my aunt’s part.
Aunt Pauline would also serve warm melt-in-your-mouth Irish soda bread, and it quickly became a favorite for our whole family. As we are Italian, Irish soda bread was not something we baked ourselves. We always purchased it from the local bakery. As I grew older, this did not sit well with me. I simply had to bake this favored bread myself.
During my feverish desire to uncover the best Irish soda bread recipe on the planet, my dear friend Joan Lane, and her daughter Mary Ann were happy to present their recipe, which had a story of its own.
Joan and her husband, Bill, were friends with the Hayden family. Mary Ann told me that the “Hayden Irish soda bread” was the very best recipe she had ever encountered and the taste was incomparable.
However, before finally sharing their recipe, years ago, the Hayden family was very secretive on the best way to bake Irish soda bread. Bill Lane cajoled, pleaded, and asked for years, but the Hayden family refused to reveal the delicious details to him.
Decades passed by, and one evening, Joan and Bill were in the company of Mrs. Hayden. Bill was determined to finally get that recipe. He spent the evening helping Mrs. Hayden enjoy quite a few drinks. Having happily imbibed, Mrs. Hayden, under Bill’s guidance, finally and graciously gave him the recipe.
I have baked this soda bread many times in my kitchen, and each time I was not disappointed. In fact, I was quite elated! The crust comes out to a deep golden hue. The warm inside of the loaf is buttery, with the moist flavor of rich raisins and caraway seeds. My thanks to the Lane family, and also the Hayden family.
I wish all my readers a happy and safe St. Patrick’s Day!
IRISH SODA BREAD
4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 cup raisins
1 cup currants
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
1 cup milk
In a bowl, stir together the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar. Cut in vegetable shortening with a pastry cutter.
Rinse raisins and currants with water. Shake a little flour over them. Add them, along with the caraway seeds, to dry mixture.
Beat eggs. Add milk to eggs, and then slowly add to dry mixture. Mix well and form into dough. Place dough in a round glass baking dish or standard loaf pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for 50 minutes.
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