Margaret Button | Kitchen Comfort: Keep tradition alive with Irish Soda Bread

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Spring is definitely on its way. There is a certain warmth in the air, bunches of tight daffodil buds have popped up at the market (I love putting a vase of them on my counter and watching them burst into full bloom), the days are getting longer (How do I reset the clock in my car?) and Cadbury mini eggs are available, which means Easter is just around the corner.

St. Patrick's Day, another harbinger of spring, is Sunday and, to my knowledge, there isn't a drop of Celtic blood in me — a few drops of Irish whiskey, maybe, but no ancestors from the Emerald Isle. Even so, I'll wear a shamrock pin and earrings to work at the market on Sunday, and hopefully come across some corned beef and cabbage along my way (which by the way, is an American dish, not Irish; lamb is more their thing).

When I was in elementary school, St. Patrick's Day was a big thing. Everyone made sure they wore Kelly green clothing that day and our moms sent in green cupcakes and shamrock cookies. By the time my son was in school, it wasn't that popular, but tradition is tradition, at least with me, and I made sure he was properly attired and arrived at school with green frosted shamrock-shaped cookies.

My mom's homage to St. Patrick's Day was to make loaves of Irish soda bread, although to be honest, she made it throughout the year whenever she felt like eating it. I love her recipe because it's really easy to make and it doesn't have caraway seeds in it (not one of my favorite spices). I almost never have golden raisins or dried currants in the pantry — or raisins for that matter — so I use whatever I do have, which is often dried cranberries or candied fruit. By the way, because I also never have buttermilk on hand, I put 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice (or vinegar) in a measuring cup before pouring in enough regular milk to make the 1 1/2 cups needed in the recipe and let it sit for 5 minutes.

IRISH SODA BREAD

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 egg, slightly beaten

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1 1/2 cups seedless raisins

3 cups flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. In medium bowl, combine buttermilk, butter, egg and raisins. In large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and blend well. Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry mixture and mix until combined.

Spoon into the prepared pan and bake for 50 to 55 minutes. Leave in pan 1 minute. Remove to wire rack to cool.


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