Recalling grandma’s Irish Soda Bread
By Judy Buchenot Buchenot@comcast.net March 13, 2013 4:48PM
Mike Carlucci cools a loaf of his Irish Soda Bread in front of a photo of his grandmother, Sarah Jane McShane, who gave him the recipe. | Courtesy of Judy Buchenot~For The Sun
McShane’s Irish Soda Bread
3 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 rounded tablespoon vegetable shortening
1 cup buttermilk
Sift together dry ingredients into a large bowl. Add shortening and cut into the dry ingredients. Add egg and buttermilk and mix well. Pour mixture onto a floured surface and gently knead until the dough is no longer sticky. Place in a well-greased 9-by-5-inch loaf pan and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake an additional 35 minutes or until a knife inserted in the bread comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool.
Hershey Bar Cake
6 1.55-ounce Hershey bars
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2-1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup chocolate syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
Confectioner’s sugar (optional)
Cream butter and gradually add sugar. Beat until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Melt candy bars and add to mixture. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Alternate adding dry ingredients and buttermilk. Add chocolate syrup and vanilla. Fold in nuts. Pour mixture into a well-greased 10-inch tube angel food cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour and 15 minutes. Cool in pan and then remove. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar if desired.
Updated: April 16, 2013 3:12PM
As St. Patrick’s Day approaches each year, 69-year-old Mike Carlucci celebrates his Irish heritage by making his favorite Irish recipes.
“My grandfather came to America from Ireland and stayed with friends until he had enough money to bring over my mother, my grandmother and my uncle,” he explains. “It took him five years. My mother never had much of an Irish accent after being in America, but my grandmother never lost hers. My grandmother, Sarah Jane McShane, is the one who raised me.”
Grandma McShane did all of the cooking for the family. He recalls that, when his grandmother purchased eggs at the grocery store, she immediately put them into water when she got home. If any of the eggs floated, she took it as a sure sign that the eggs were not fresh.
“She would send the eggs back,” he said. “She would say, ‘if I’m payin’ for fresh eggs, then I want fresh eggs.’”
Most of the meals were simple Irish fare with lots of roasts and stews.
“Every Sunday, she would make us bacon and eggs,” Carlucci said. “She would take a slice of Irish (soda) bread and brown one side in bacon grease. Then I would dip it in my egg yolks. It was so good. Of course, now we don’t cook with bacon grease, but in those days, everyone kept a can of bacon grease next to the stove to use for cooking.”
Carlucci lives in Woodridge and works in Naperville; however, he grew up in Toledo, Ohio. He recalls that his grandmother was interviewed for St. Patrick’s Day about 50 years ago by the local paper. For the photo, she is holding a loaf of her Irish soda bread.
“People called for days wanting her recipe,” Carlucci says. “But she never used a recipe.”
After being asked repeatedly for one, Carlucci says, his grandmother showed him an Irish soda bread recipe in a woman’s magazine.
“I asked her if that recipe was the same as hers. She said ‘sort of.’” Carlucci then went through the recipe ingredient by ingredient with his grandmother. “The recipe called for two eggs, but she said she only put in one because otherwise it would be like cake,” he says. “She changed almost all the ingredient amounts.”
He then made the recipe several times, making more changes. When he finally thought it was correct, he offered his grandmother a slice. “She took a bite and said ‘Michael me boy, I think it is as good as mine.’ That was the best compliment she could give me,” he says.
Carlucci acknowledges there are many Irish soda bread recipes but feels his grandmother’s is authentic.
Carlucci and his roommate Paula Farrell enjoy cooking and trying new recipes. They both have entered contests at the NCO Chocolate Festival but also compete with each other. They recently tried making red velvet cakes and asked neighbors to serve as judges.
“We are never afraid to try new things,” he says. “But we have some favorites that we love to make.”
Among those tried-and-true recipes is a Hershey Bar Cake as well as Sarah Jane McShane’s Irish Soda Bread. Carlucci offers both recipes for others to try.
Know someone who really likes to cook? Contact columnist Judy Buchenot at Buchenot@comcast.net.