Tag Archives: ritual

Every year as a nod to my Irish heritage, I make Irish soda bread. I’m not sure where this ritual began for me, but I started doing it about 10 years ago. Maybe it helps me to pay homage to my Irish ancestors or maybe it’s because I love the simplicity of this recipe that I use every single year. 

Having rituals or traditions surrounding holidays is very commonplace for myself and many others. I typically have specific recipes that I make consistently for certain holidays. Pumpkin shaped pizza for Halloween, cheddar herb butter biscuits on Christmas Eve, rainbow cookies for Christmas, braided egg bread for Easter, and of course this stout Irish soda bread for St. Patrick’s Day!

These recipes give me something to look forward to for each holiday. Rituals can be extremely therapeutic because they are predictable. I think rituals give us a sense of peace because often times it is something we can control in our lives. 

This week has been a hard week emotionally due to some circumstances out of my control, so making this recipe was comforting for me in many ways. Combining the familiar ingredients, kneading the sticky dough, and savoring the warm, buttery bread all brought calmness to my tolling mood. 

In my research, I found that this recipe that I make every year is a very “American” twist on Irish Soda Bread, which I love. Even though I trace many of my ancestral roots back to Ireland, I truly am American in every respect. The American version tends to be more sweeter than the traditional soda bread. 

Irish soda bread was a recipe of traditionally poor people because all of the ingredients were quite simple; flour, salt, baking soda, and soured milk. This recipe is slightly different because it adds hints of tartness with orange zest and sweet raisins. I also add a dusting of sugar to create a delicate, sweet crust on top of the soda bread. 

Now there are several variations as to why an “X” is marked in the top of the bread. Some say that the X was to ward off the devil and protect the household. Some say it was just a method to easily split the bread into four pieces or that it represented a cross during Christian holidays that brought blessings from the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. My favorite theory though is the one that alludes that the X was meant to let the fairies escape from the bread. Whatever you believe (I think they all sounds promising), don’t forget to cut the X in your bread!


Irish Soda Bread
Adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home

4 c. flour, plus extra for currants
4 T sugar, plus extra for finishing
1 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. salt
4 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 3/4 c. cold buttermilk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 T. grated orange zest
1 1/2  c. raisins

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.

With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Combine the raisins with 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough. It will be very wet.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar on top of the dough. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.

Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with a slather of butter.