Marion Cunningham’s Irish Soda Bread

When we lived in NY, my husband we had a lot of neighbors with Irish ancestry. There was a set of triplets of Irish descent whose mother made the most amazing Irish Soda Bread. The triplets attended the school where my husband worked. They would sell their mother’s Irish Soda Bread to friends, neighbors, and their teachers for St. Patrick’s Day. (It’s a much bigger holiday in NY than it is here in UT.) I was thinking of that soda bread while I made Marion Cunningham’s recipe from Baking With Julia.

I was intrigued that the recipe only called for four ingredients: flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk. That was all. The idea being that those four ingredients would have easily been found in a traditional Irish kitchen.

In past years, I’ve made more of what tastes like a giant, raisin-studded scone or biscuit. (Not that I’m complaining–we really go for that kind of thing.)

Marion Cunningham’s recipe is much, much different. There’s very little fat. In theory, you’d think that the bread would be tough. It’s handled gingerly so that doesn’t happen. The buttermilk makes it very tender.

The exterior was stunning–like artisan bread at its finest. I cut a thin wedge and tasted it. The result was something I wasn’t expecting–it actually had a texture similar to yeast bread. It took me a few more (little) slices to make up my mind whether I liked it or not.

The verdict? I decided that I really liked it. And I think I want to make it again. And not just on St. Patrick’s Day.

The recipe says that it will turn rock hard a few hours after it is baked. We found it to be perfectly fine–not that hard–even after two days. It’s delicious toasted and buttered with a bit of jam. And it was the perfect companion to our St. Paddy’s Day dinner.

You can watch the video of Marion Cunningham making Irish Soda Bread on PBS. (I guess if I’d watched it before I made it, I wouldn’t have been so surprised with the result. And of course, her bread looks much better.)

Irish Soda Bread
From Marion Cunningham

Ingredients:
4 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoons of salt
2 cups of buttermilk

Instructions:
Grease an 8 inch glass pie plate and set aside. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and put the rack in the middle of the oven. (I used a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.)

Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl and add the buttermilk. Stir until everything comes together and then turn the dough out on a floured surface. Knead the dough for only a minute resisting the urge to do more. The dough should not be overworked. Form the dough into a disk about 6 inches across. Place in your greased pie dish. The dough won’t touch the sides. Cut a cross in the dough about a half in deep all the way across and then bake for about 50 minutes until the slash widens and the bread is a nice golden brown.

Cool the bread on a wire rack until it is completely cool before slicing. Wrap the bread in a moist towel until ready to serve. You can keep this bread for a day wrapped and at room temperature but by the end of the day even the little amount of fat in the buttermilk will cause the bread to become pretty hard.

6 Responses to “Marion Cunningham’s Irish Soda Bread”

  1. b. March 21, 2009 at 4:52 am #

    Isn’t Marion Cunningham on Happy Days?
    You know, Richie and Joanie’s mom?

  2. Marie March 21, 2009 at 6:43 am #

    I have several of Marion Cunningham’s cookbooks, notably her Breakfast Book and her Supper Book. Both wonderfully full of delicious little gems. I am not surprised her soda bread is so good. I shall give this a try. I bet it goes wonderfully with soup!

  3. Cafe Johnsonia March 21, 2009 at 4:57 pm #

    b.–Irish Soda Bread was The Fonz’s favorite.

  4. susette March 23, 2009 at 1:53 am #

    I’m coming over from Mormon Mommy Blogs, asking for your help. I am in the running for a round trip airfare paid ticket to Connecticut, to meet a friend I became acquainted with through blogging. She is a super fun person and is holding this contest. I entered a funny story titled “Grapejuice Floaties, Now Marry Me.” The person whose story receives the most votes will win a trip to meet this generous lady, whom I’m hoping to meet. The voting ends tonight-midnight. I used to be ahead but there is a story coming up from behind out of nowhere, and it’s a tight race now. I would so much appreciate your help. Her blog is http://www.becausemomsaidso.blogspot.com and the voting is on the sidebar on the right. “Grapejuice, Floaties” Just go there and cast a vote for me, please. Thanks so much-you’re awesome! ♥♥
    YOUR VOTE REALLY WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

  5. Lin January 26, 2014 at 5:23 am #

    What a lovely, simple recipe. Thanks for sharing this!

  6. Lindsey Johnson January 27, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

    Thanks for stopping by Lin! It’s such an easy recipe. You’re going to love it! :)

Leave a Reply