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An unending chorus

Lightly toasted; an adapted Irish soda bread slathered with butter and black raspberry preserves, served on my Grandmother's china.

When I married my husband, I adopted his surname. Lucky for me, attached to that marvelous man was a name that suited my own and came with an added bonus - an apostrophe as its crown. And so, on our wedding day, my Indian self became an Irish girl.

At birth each of our sons were claimed by their history, given names which carry meaning in our respective families. As the boys grow, I am time and again amazed by the echoes of their heritage as they become evident. William's smile is the replica of his father's at the same age. Benjamin's eyes carry my expressions. Family members tell stories of relatives we have never known, and how they are mirrored now in our children.

I am struck by the wonder of it, the way that traits find their way through bloodlines, inextricably weaving generations together in repeating pattern. It is an unending chorus, sung in round, sung back.

Our sense of identity is in constant evolution; carrying on and adding on, as we move forward in lives and relationships. Despite this change, we often remember back as we move ahead - gesture a nod of acknowledgement to the clans, countries and cultures from which we came.

Although I cannot pretend to be an expert Indian cook, I do attempt to speak that language of spice in our kitchen. My chicken curry might not exactly be my father's, but it is the one my children will know as "theirs". I have made a refrain of my commitment to maintaining that vocabulary of food, so that it will remain familiar.

With the day for St. Patrick approaching next week, my thoughts took a Gaelic turn. Irish might make up only a fraction of our family, but its brand upon us is indisputable - therefore it seemed proper to herald the feast of the patron saint of Ireland. Ever-present on the Irish table, hearty, satisfying soda bread made its way to our plates, with its unassuming stature and nubbled crumb. Although its rough-hewn crust seems substantial, its cheeks are tender. Soda bread is heavier textured than a scone, and with a flavour more subtly-complex than the all-out buttery-ness of a biscuit.

The romantic side of me wants to say that the reason my sons and husband enjoyed this bread so much was because of some genetic predisposition - a subconscious recognition of an ancient root in their geneology. That may be the case, or it might have just been some good bread. Either way, the intent was there; a meal to celebrate not one day, but all those that had passed before.

Irish-ish soda bread
Traditional Irish soda bread only contains flour, buttermilk, baking soda and salt. This version uses a mix of flours, along with oats for texture, and an egg for richness. Since I more often than not have yogurt in the fridge, I have used it as my liquid. A quick bake in high heat allows you to have bread on the table, from start to finish, in about an hour.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (large flake, not instant)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons golden (light) brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups yogurt (I use non-fat)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup, 1/2 stick) cold, unsalted butter, diced

Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Line a standard baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, oats, salt, sugar, baking powder and baking soda.

In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt and egg. Set aside.

Using a pastry cutter, two knives or your fingers, cut the butter into the flour cutting and work the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in the yogurt, mixing until you have a rough dough. Use your hands to turn and lightly knead the bread in the bowl, incorporating all the dry ingredients.

Working quickly, turn the dough onto a lightly-floured work surface and knead gently for about 30 seconds; the dough should be soft and elastic. Form the dough into a boule, about 8-inches across with a gentle dome and slightly-flattened top. Dust the surface of the bread with a sprinkling of flour, then use a sharp knife to slash a shallow cross from edge to edge of the loaf. Transfer bread to prepared baking sheet.

Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. If the crust gets too dark during baking, tent loosely with foil. Cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes, then enjoy.

Makes 1 loaf.


• The dough make take a few turns in the bowl to fully come together. If only absolutely necessary, add a bit more yogurt, a teaspoon at a time, to incorporate all the dry ingredients. Work the dough as gently as possible.

Reader Comments (19)

What a lovely post. I wish I was Irish so I could claim my proud heritage but that doesn't stop me from enjoying the Irish celebrations this coming Tuesday. By the way, the plate you have there is lovely.

March 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

I love the idea of fresh bread in an hour! I think I'm going to be making this for dinner tonight.

March 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTeri @ Make A Whisk

Lovely post and lovely looking recipe and photo. That looks like a fantastic St. Patrick's Day recipe--thank you for the inspiration!

March 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

Great story! Irish soda bread is an all-time favorite - March or not. Yours looks fabulous with those toppings!



March 12, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersquirrelbread

it looks absolutely perfect!

March 13, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterceline

As an Irish girl your bread looks gorgeous, the perfect breakfast for me!! Happy St. Patricks Day for Tuesday

March 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRachel@fairycakeheaven

Beautiful post about family and heritage. I do love some good Irish soda bread--yours looks fantastic:)

March 15, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteronlinepastrychef

You have entranced another Irish girl here with your homage to Soda Bread. Beautiful!

March 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDaily Spud

Just popped two of these in the oven! Thanks for the recipe - I will let you know how delicious it was after dinner!

March 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnita

I love your take on the soda bread. I have just recently learned of adding yogurt as a liquid to make breads and cakes more moist and tender.

March 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnticiPlate

Great recipe--I made it yesterday with a few alterations:

- used oat bran cereal instead of oats for a bit more fiber
- didn't have yogurt so I used fat free ricotta, which wasn't wet enough to make the dough; I added a whole cup of water and the dough worked out nicely
- baked much more slowly at 350F

The bread itself turned out very scone-like, which was lovely with a nice crumb. I would have enjoyed some dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, currants) added to the bread.

All in all, an outstanding recipe for a great whole-grain, no-yeast, no-guilt bread. Thanks for this one! It's definitely going into my rotation.

i love the way you write. so lovely.

and your photos are amazing .. thanks for haring!

March 18, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersimplesong

What a beautiful post. Unfortunately I have no children and when I read some stories like yours move myself.
Irish soda bread is a wonderful for St Patrick´s day .Yours looks delicious

March 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia

Amanda, thanks so much for your kindness, and I hope you had a great St. Patrick's Day. The plate is in the Charnwood pattern, and I sort of adore it for its old-fashioned femininity.

Teri @ Make A Whisk, please report back if you did make some, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Anna, you're more than welcome.

Heather, toasted with jam is by far my favourite way of enjoying this bread. Benjamin seemed rather partial, as well.

Celine, thank you!

Rachel@fairycakeheaven and Daily Spud, thank you for saying; since my Irishness is only by marriage, it thrills me to know I have your approval.

onlinepastrychef, you're always too kind.

Anita, I hope you enjoyed the bread.

AnticiPlate, yogurt has many great baking uses, no? As I usually have it on hand, I find myself substituting it for buttermilk and sour cream quite often.

Amanda, it is great to see how you made the recipe your own. I will surely try your variation! Thanks so much for reporting back.

simplesong, you're most welcome. Coming from someone with your eye, the compliment means the world.

Sylvia, thank you for your visit!

March 19, 2009 | Unregistered Commentertara

i ve never heard of this but it looks really good and i will definitely try it...M gonna buy the required ingredients from

March 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersampada

I did make this bread, and I loved it!

We were out of yogurt, so I ended up using buttermilk instead, still everything turned out great.

March 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTeri @ Make A Whisk

Just pulled this loaf out of the oven and can't wait to eat it with tonight's soup...and then toast it for breakfast tomorrow. I'll let you know if it doesn't taste as good as it smells, but don't expect to hear back. I think it's going to be delicious!

March 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCourtoise

I make soda bread all the time using my gran's recipe; thought I'd never change!I mean why mess with a good thing - but hey I tried this recipe and loved it - great texture! Thanks for sharing. celticb

March 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Good days give you joy while bad days give you experience. So never regret every single day of your life!

October 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLily

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