Seasonal Flavors: Irish Soda Bread


I once spent a few days at a seaside retreat house in New Jersey. While there I met Sister Monica O’Keefe, who was also on retreat, or was working there, or something. My memory of the visit is fuzzy.  But what I do remember is the Irish soda bread that she made. I had never had such a thing before, but I loved it. I read Sr. Monica’s obituary from 2014 and learned that her parents were Irish immigrants and that she spent her life in teaching and later in substance abuse counseling. But in the summer of 1975 she was baking bread at the Jersey shore.

I give you this recipe as a tribute to a woman whom I recall with great fondness. Her address is scrawled on the bottom of the yellowed recipe paper in my file box. I don’t remember if we ever corresponded after the visit, but it’s enough that I have the recipe.

I’d make this for my kids on St. Patrick’s Day and if I was feeling foolish, I’d add a little green food coloring.

And I’ll leave you with one of Sr. Monica’s favorite sayings: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.”

Irish Soda Bread

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Mix the dry ingredients, add the buttermilk, then mix to form a dough. Knead for five minutes. Form into a loaf and place the dough in a greased loaf pan. Cut 2-3 diagonal slashes across the dough. Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes.


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