Grandpa Kilroy’s Irish Soda Bread is a delicious quick bread that doesn’t require any yeast (score!). This recipe is my grandpa’s recipe and a family favorite. It is best served with my grandma’s beef stew or salted Irish butter and a hot cuppa tea.
It’s quarantine day …? Who really knows at this point? I’ve pretty much been home since March 13th. Sure, I run errands and get groceries but the days of leisurely strolling the aisles are long gone. Luckily, it’s been warming up a bit so I’ve been able to sit on our back patio and go for runs to get some fresh air.
Like most of you, there’s been a lot of bread-making in the Kilroy/Dadabo household. Well, there was in the beginning of our shelter-in-place order. Not so much lately. It’s not as fun or relaxing when you’re on your fourth loaf of banana bread, you know? One of my favorite breads to bake is my Grandpa’s Irish Soda Bread.
My grandpa immigrated to the USA from Ireland in his 20s (the 1950s). He first landed in Boston where he had some family and eventually made his way to Chicago. He and my grandma met at a dance and the rest was history!
On February 13, 2020 (4 days after his 87th birthday!), my Grandpa Kilroy passed away. I won’t go into the details but I will say he passed fully sound of mind and peacefully. I left the hospital that night and said “I love you, see you later!” and he told me, “I love you too, honey.” I knew he didn’t have much longer so I went home and got to work on his Irish Soda Bread.
That night was the first time I attempted Irish Soda Bread without his guidance. And let me tell you… it was pretty difficult! There was quite a lot of guesswork because between my sisters and I, we all had a slightly different version of his recipe. My grandpa, after years of working with his hands in his carpenters union (he helped build some pretty notable buildings in Chicago including the Hancock Building!), mixed his dough based on feel. If it was too dry, he’d add in a little more buttermilk. Too wet? Throw in some flour.
Unfortunately, my grandpa didn’t get to try my version of his soda bread. So I made some for my family and it wasn’t quite right. I tried again. And again. Until finally, on my 4th try, I got it right. My grandpa’s Irish Soda Bread has a flaky, golden crust and a chewy, light inside. I’ve tried store bought versions of this bread and other recipes and if you ask me… nothing compares to my Grandpa’s.
The secret to Grandpa Kilroy’s Irish Soda Bread is that not only does it call for buttermilk but it also calls for… drumroll please… sour cream! And butter! All three! Amazing. And a big spoon. He was very adamant about using a mix spoon to mix it all together. 😉 That’s why it’s the best.
My grandpa’s bread is browned on the outside and chewy on the inside. This recipe makes 2 large loaves but, like my grandpa always did, you can freeze a loaf and save it for later. Just make sure to thaw for a few hours before trying to slice!
Grandpa Kilroy’s Irish Soda Bread
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup white sugar plus more for topping
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter cold and cubed
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 egg large
- 1 cup raisins
- Preheat oven to 250F and prepare your loaf pans: spray with non-stick spray and line with parchment paper.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, and sour cream. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and granulated sugar. Cube the cold butter and add into the dry mixture. Work the dry mixture + butter until the dough becomes a coarse crumb and then add in the raisins.
- Pour in the wet mixture and continue to mix together. You may need to flour your hands and get in there yourself to get everything combined well. Transfer the dough into your loaf pans and sprinkle more sugar on top (just the way Grandpa Kilroy likes it). Score the top using a sharp knife (I just do a straight line) to make sure the inside gets cooked all the way.
- Bake your loaves for 1 hour and then "boost it up" to 275F and "just watch it." Basically, up the oven temperature for 275 and bake for another 45-60 minutes, until the top is browned and a fork comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Transfer the loaves to a wire rack to cool further, slice and serve with salted butter.
- My grandpa always used a “big spoon” instead of a whisk. To get a taste of the real thing, give that a try 🙂
- You can omit raisins entirely or substitute in currants
- To freeze, wrap in aluminum foil and store in freezer for up to 3 months.