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An Irish Soda Bread Recipe Like Grandma Made: NPR

Maureen O’Reilly shares a family recipe for Irish soda bread.

Maureen O’Reilly/Collage by NPR

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Maureen O’Reilly/Collage by NPR

An Irish Soda Bread Recipe Like Grandma Made: NPR

Maureen O’Reilly shares a family recipe for Irish soda bread.

Maureen O’Reilly/Collage by NPR

All Things We’re Cooking is a series showcasing family recipes from you, our readers and listeners, and the special stories behind them. We’ll continue to share more of your kitchen gems throughout the holidays.

When Maureen O’Reilly decided it was time to ask where the family’s Irish soda bread recipe came from, her husband’s grandmother Boyce laughed.

The recipe had traveled with Grandma Boyce from Ireland, where it was a staple while she was growing up. O’Reilly wanted to make the bread for her husband, Ken, but realized she was going to have to be very careful to capture the recipe while Grandma Boyce was baking, since she made the bread by touch and feel. seen.

“I literally had to stand in the kitchen next to her as she threw flour, sugar and other things into the bowl and then scooped them out as best I could and measured them,” said O’Reilly. “Eventually we came up with a recipe, and it was always a little different each time, but you know, it taught me the basics of prep and cooking.”

Boyce’s recipe includes sugar, raisins and caraway seeds, but these ingredients weren’t in the breads she had as a child in Ireland. It wasn’t until Boyce immigrated to the United States and became a professional chef that Irish soda bread became more than flour, buttermilk and salt.

O’Reilly said she once asked Grandma Boyce, who died in 1987, what the difference was between her recipe and the so-called authentic ones O’Reilly had found during her research.

“She said, ‘Yes, yes, that’s right. Am I unlucky? Now I live in a country where I can find these ingredients, where I have enough money to buy these ingredients, and I can add them to my bread and it tastes so much better,” O’Reilly said, recalling the conversation. “She said it was like eating a stone, and now it’s like eating cake.”

O’Reilly, who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, bakes the bread about five times a year — not just on St. Patrick’s Day — because family members love it.

“There are people in my immediate family who really, really like it and consider it a treat…whether they take it with a beer or a cup of tea,” O’Reilly said.

Some of them like bread in its purest form, while others, including O’Reilly, prefer to spread Irish Kerrygold butter on top.

No one else in the family made the recipe with O’Reilly. She hopes to change that this Christmas, however, and pass the recipe on to her granddaughter, as it’s really the only Irish soda bread the family wants.

“Over the years I’ve tried other kinds of soda bread. You know, when Martha Stewart came along with her bread and other bakers. I’ve definitely tried them all,” O’Reilly said. “But they were all rejected by the family. They wanted Grandma’s bread.”

Irish soda bread

Recipe submitted by Maureen O’Reilly
Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


  • 4 cups soft wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of caraway seeds
  • 1 cup raisins (half golden, soaked in hot water for 15 minutes)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/3 cup whole buttermilk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine in a large bowl 4 cups soft wheat flour, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 teaspoons caraway seeds and 1 cup raisins (half browned , soaked in hot water for 15 minutes).

Crumble in 1/2 cup unsalted butter with your fingers until the mixture is fragrant with butter, caraway, and flour, and the pieces of butter are pea-sized or larger.

In a second bowl, combine 1 1/3 cups of whole buttermilk, 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of baking soda. Beat until frothy.

Add to the dry ingredients and mix to form a stiff dough, stopping just when the flour disappears.

Grease a 9 inch round pan (glass works well).

Place the dough in the pan and shape slightly into a dome.

Sprinkle generously with flour.

Using a sharp knife, cut a half-inch deep cross in the top.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour.

Leave to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then unmold onto a wire rack to cool.

Serve thickly sliced ​​with Irish butter and piping hot tea.

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