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Brown Soda Bread with Honey Butter

Planning ahead for Saint Patrick’s Day I did zero research for a recipe, banking on someone in my mom’s family sharing an ancient family dish with me. After all, her maiden name is Brady, so someone had to have a stained, faded, chicken-scratch written Irish recipe hidden in their vault, right? Good food is inevitable at any Brady celebration, and Saint Patrick’s Day is no exception.

My major specifications were: I didn’t want to make a potato dish (because if it serve 6, I’ll eat 3 servings); corned beef and cabbage was out (I have my fair share of each throughout the year); and I wanted to bake. I contacted my Aunt Colleen, thinking if anyone had an original Irish Soda Bread recipe, it would be her. No such luck- though she has many specialties in the kitchen, it seems a Brady family soda bread recipe simply does not exist.

My next inquiry consisted of only Google and persistence; requesting recipes from the popular search engine requires endurance and an open mind. Google’s new “recipe” search function helps a bit, but still, with a return of over 70,000 Irish Soda Bread recipes I didn’t even know where to begin. Before I could develop a list of groceries, or head into the kitchen, I figured I needed to learn the history and tradition of soda bread and why it is important in Irish culinary culture.

According to The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread, the product we see packaged in grocery stores and markets around this time of the year is, most likely, not even bread. Traditional soda bread consists of solely flour, buttermilk, salt and baking soda. Some conventional versions will go as far outside the box as adding butter, but anything with dried fruit, sugar or honey, eggs, or even whiskey sounds more like ingredients for cake. The appeal of soda bread, when it was first created, was that it was inexpensive, practical, and required very little time to make. Additionally, the loaves were baked in bastible pots, or dutch ovens, over a fire. This authentic recipe can be whipped up in less than an hour, including baking time.  Read More…

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