Bread IS the Staff of Life (so here’s a recipe)


While we were traveling throughout Ireland, we decided to make a stop to visit one of our artists, entrepreneur David Monson, owner and craftsman of Monson Irish Jewelry. We’ve been enchanted by his delightful pendants handcrafted from genuine Irish and American woods and were curious to see his workshop and spend some time getting to know David better. After all, he was a recent winner of “Dragon’s Den,” Ireland’s version of the television competition program “Shark Tank,” so we knew the visit would certainly be interesting.

What we did not expect was how delicious it would be as well.

David lives and works in Ballyhaige, County Kerry, in a family home near rich bog marshes. A man after our own hearts, his first suggestion once we finally found the place was not to tour the workshop but to go have a bite to eat, since lunchtime had come and gone.

With David at the wheel of our rental car, we soon found ourselves at a pub in a nearby village where David apparently is a regular, since he knew everyone and everyone knew him. Lunch was hearty and filling fare, but the best part, to this lover of all things carbohydrate, was the freshly baked Irish soda bread, sliced thick and slathered with butter. Mmm.

Surprisingly, a few slices were left when the meal was done, so I asked the charming proprietress if I could have the leftovers packed up to take with me. Too good to leave behind, you know. She agreed, of course, but when she returned to hand me my package, it contained not the few remaining slices but an ENTIRE LOAF of bread–heaven! You can be sure that the loaf was one of my favorite souvenirs of the trip, and it accompanied me, tucked away in my carry-on bag, all the way back home, to be savored at breakfast for the next couple of days.

Thank you, David Monson, for your lovely pendants (here, here, here, and here) and a delicious memory of our visit to your studio!

Irish Soda Bread
1 large loaf, serves 8

3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup raisins
1-1/2 to 1-3/4 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly flour a large baking sheet

Sift the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and add raisins. Make a well in the center and pour in 1-1/2 cups buttermilk. Stir with one hand, fingers apart, moving in circles to incorporate the buttermilk. If necessary, add more buttermilk 1 Tbs. at a time until the dough barely comes together; do not overwork it. The dough should be soft.

Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and pat into a round approximately 6-3/4 inches in diameter and 1-1/2 inches high in the center. Invert the round so the floured side is on top. With a thin, sharp knife, mark a cross on the dough about 1/4 inch deep and extending fully from one side to the other.

Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Lower the over temperature to 400 degrees and bake until the bread is browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, another 20-30 minutes.

Cool to room temperature on a rack, about 2 hours, before slicing and serving.

Recipe courtesy of Fine Cooking

Stay Ever Irish,