Irish-Style Soda Bread with Fennel


What butter and whiskey will not cure, there is no cure for. 

Irish proverb

No matter what your ethnic heritage, everyone is a little Irish on St. Patricks Day.  Once a year we bust out the green, toast the emerald isle and eat dishes we associate with that part of the globe.  Restaurants adjust their menus to include favorites like corned beef and cabbage, shepherds pie, bangers and mash and Irish stew. The rich flavor of Guinness beer with shots of Jameson whiskey are consumed with gay abandon.  Let’s face it, it is just a big excuse to “party on” so why not let your hair down and join the celebration.  Beware, however, this is also a day when law enforcement is out in full force and in some cities more DUI’s are issued that day than any other.  In other words, you can party hardy but for your own safety as well as the safety of others, please take a cab.

It is better to exist unknown to the law.     Irish proverb

One thing I love to make to accompany my St. Pat’s meal is soda bread.  This classic Irish quick bread uses baking soda as its leavener as its name implies and is usually made with buttermilk.  It is often sprinkled with currants and sometimes caraway seeds.  Frequently it is seen with a cross slashed across the top that according to legend is thought to scare away the devil.  That said, I am featuring a twist on the classic using fennel seed in place of caraway and eliminating the dried fruit.  This version, unlike many I have tasted, is very moist and is a bit sweeter than the more traditional recipes.  I have made it often, shared it in class and given it as gifts.  It is always very well received and people marvel at its moistness.  IMG_3668

It goes down like this.

IRISH-STYLE SODA BREAD  with FENNEL               Yields:  12 servings

3 c all-purpose flour

1 T baking powder

1t baking soda

½ t salt

¾ c sugar

1 T fennel seed

2 eggs, beaten

1¾ c buttermilk

2 t butter, melted

3T butter, chilled, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter a 10-inch round cake pan.  (I use a nine-inch spring form and it works fine)

In a large bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, and fennel seed.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs and blend with the buttermilk and melted butter.

Stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture, until just blended using a large spoon.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.  Dot with the 3 T chilled butter pieces.


Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour in the preheated oven, or until puffed and golden and toothpick comes out clean.

Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

The texture and sweetness of this bread lends itself well as a bite served with a spot of tea similar to cake or served in the bread basket with savory dishes.  If less sweetness is desired you can cut the amount of sugar.  Find yourself with leftovers?  Try slicing and toasting it for breakfast or for a bit of fusion, transform it into French toast.


So I give you the gift of this lovely recipe, wish you a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day and leave you with the words of this old Irish proverb.IMG_3727

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face

And rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again,

May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.





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