Soda Bread Research Paper

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For decades, I assumed the cross my Irish grandmother cut into the top of her round loaves of soda bread in her upstate New York farmhouse was a traditional blessing. It was a natural conclusion since her bread was as soul-sustaining as communion at an Irish Catholic mass. So I was astounded to learn that the bread cross had a far more ancient – and superstitious – purpose.
When I asked master baker Mary Gleeson, co-owner of Gleesons Restaurant & Rooms in the Irish town of Roscommon about the cross tradition, she answered without hesitation: “You have to cut a cross in the dough to let the fairies out.”
Four types of soda bread are offered at Gleeson’s restaurant (Credit: Credit: Gleesons Restaurant & Rooms)
Four types of soda bread are offered
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My grammy didn’t use a recipe and never measured ingredients. In fact, she didn’t even use utensils. She merely dumped flour on the Formica kitchen table and used a throwing-in method that was so fast it was like a slight-of-hand magic trick. She’d say, “Katie, some day you’re going to have to do this on your own.” Yet when the day came, the ingredient measurements I’d taken down during her eyeballed baking process were not enough, and my bread was tough and dense.
This handmade bread was the core sustenance for my large Irish-American family, part of our shared experience, and its absence was as notable as the void left by my grandmother. So I headed to the Emerald Isle to learn the secrets of the bread bakers.
Bread-baking pilgrimage
In Gleeson’s restaurant, there are four types of soda bread and five types of scones offered. The bread is so renowned that she’s presented it at embassy events in the United States and food shows in Europe. When I explained my plight to Gleeson, she said she’d also learned the throwing-in method from her granny and admitted it took time to perfect. Then she said, “Come back to me in a week when it’s quiet and I’ll teach you how to make soda bread. You’ll not leave until you’ve got it down.”
No two soda breads are the same (Credit: Credit: Gleesons Restaurant & Rooms)
'No two soda breads are the same' (Credit: Gleesons Restaurant &
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When I arrived, the counters in the busy cafe were loaded with rustic soda bread loaves with a thick crust. It didn’t look like my grammy’s bread, but it was delicious.
“No two soda breads are the same,” said Ward, adding that he and his wife, Mary, make completely different bread with the same ingredients. Brown soda bread, full of healthy grains, has always been the most popular version in Ireland. But you see all sorts in cafes and bakeries, from crusty white to loaves made with herbs, Guinness, treacle and walnuts or even seaweed. Yet I never found soda bread like my grammy’s: slightly sweet, savoury with caraway seeds and full of

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