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Teaching Irish Soda Bread

By Carolee Gifford
March 7th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The smell of the Irish Soda Bread wafted through the lower school hall. The ancient ovens were transforming the fifth-grade creations from unlikely lumps of dough into soon-to-be consumed delights.

CAROLEE GIFFORD (Catholic Online) - My daughter came home from her Catholic school with the request that I come teach her class how to cook something.  A vegetarian for many years, my cooking has been the scorn of my three children on many occasions.  My favorite comment was their transformation of my very nutritious, "Cowboy Stew" into "Cowboy Spew."

Surprised that I would be asked to share my rather limited cooking talents, I approached the task with enthusiasm.

St. Patrick's Day was looming so my Irish Soda Bread was a logical choice. For years my soda bread and the little green cupcakes with plastic shamrocks were the heralds of March 17. 

My fondness for St. Patrick went beyond the soda bread, cupcakes,  rivers flowing green, festive parades, and the ever-popular green beer.

As a chaplain and CCD teacher, I am challenged regularly to explain the trinity in a readily digestible fashion.

"Is it one leaf or three?" St. Patrick challenged, holding up a three-leaf clover.  This simple question provided a tangible explanation of the Trinity, a concept that boggles many Catholics.  Something to hold on to - literally - while swimming the seas of theological inquiry.

The big day arrived.  I came armed with flour butter, raisins, buttermilk and sugar.  Not much to it but it was fun to see my daughter's classmates surrounding the various bowls I scarfed up in the school's antiquated kitchen.  The gas ovens roared, lit with a match, ready to accept our offerings.

It was a happy day filled with smiling faces, intoxicating smells and the sounds of a good saint, celebrated well.

FIFTH-GRADE SUPER DUPER IRISH SODA BREAD

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Sift together in a large bowl:
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
teaspoon baking soda
teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Cut cup chilled butter into the flour with a pastry blender or two forks, until the mixture has the consistency of coarse cornmeal:

Stir in:
to 1 cup raisins

Mix together:
1 beaten egg
2/3 cup buttermilk

Add to dry ingredients and stir well.  Knead briefly and place in a greased 8-inch round pan. Press down so dough will fill the pan. Cut a bold cross over the top and sides.

Brush the top with milk.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes until nice and golden.  Enjoy!

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