Authentic Irish Soda Bread — Really!

I’ve tasted soda bread once or twice over the years. I didn’t care for it. Crumbly, dry, tasteless.

Then, along came Rachel Gaffney through the power of Twitter, one of the online social networking sites that is popular right now. About a year ago, Rachel and I began tweeting back and forth. Rachel, who was born and raised in Ireland and now lives in Texas, was planning a business trip to Minneapolis. I was going to be there at the same time. We decided to get together.

As we sipped a beverage and chatted at a table at Murray’s, the famous steak place downtown Minneapolis, I learned more about this Irish entrepeneur. She’s charged with energy, determination and drive, exactly what she needs to run her business, Rachel Gaffney’s Authentic Irish Goods.

Rachel Gaffney recently sent me her recipe for authentic Irish soda bread. It looked easy enough to make, so I decided to give it a try. It’s not like any other soda bread I’ve tasted. It’s moist yet hardy. Not a raisin in sight. Delicious with a thick slather of good butter. Nice toasted, too. I found it best on the day it comes from the oven. Next time I’ll shape the dough into two round loaves and freeze one of them. Rachel’s recipe makes a large loaf, so unless you’re feeding a crowd, you may want to do the same.

Rachel agreed to share some information about herself. Her most exciting bit of news, though, is that she will be appearing live on Martha Stewart’s show Tuesday, March 16th. She’ll be teaching Martha how to make her authentic Irish shortbread. Tune in and you can learn, too.

You can read more about Rachel by visiting her blog: Rachel Gaffney’s Real Ireland.

Thanks for sharing your time and your soda bread with us, Rachel.

1. Rachel, what’s your favorite way to eat Irish Soda Bread?

I love to eat Soda Bread for breakfast with KERRYGOLD SALTED BUTTER and Seville Orange Marmalade. Nice pot of hot Tea to accompany it.
I also love it with a bowl of Leek & Potato Soup.

2. Rachel, you were born and raised in Ireland. What’s the St. Patrick’s Day meal like in the Gaffney’s household in Texas?

Every year, I take my sons skiing with my best friend. We have our annual Mum and Son trip. It always falls on St. Patrick’s Day. My boys like to join in with the rest of the skiiers and wear their green, of course. When you look at them, they have the map of Ireland written all over their faces !!!!
We have to eat whatever is on offer in the local restaurants, but when we return, we will be having our family dinner with Dad. They have requested Lamb with the Irish Whiskey Marmalade Glaze , Turnip & Potato Gratin and of course my signature dessert, Brady’s Irish Cream Cheesecake with my Irish Butter shortbread base.

3. When you have guests in your kitchen, do they get any clues that you’re Irish?

I suppose having Irish Pottery, Irish Butter,Irish cheeses and LOTS of root vegetables might be a giveaway !!!

4. Traditional Irish Butter Shortbread is one of your products availabile in high-end grocery stores (Lund’s and Byerly’s in Minnesota). Who taught you to make shortbread?

When I was growing up my Mum used to make trays of Irish butter Shortbread for Birthday parties. She would ice them or sometimes she would layer the shortbreads with caramel and chocolate. Yum
I watched my Mum make them over and over again. The only way to learn anything, in my opinion, is to watch.

When I moved to the United States in 1996, I noticed that people’s perception of the IRELAND I knew was somehow distorted. I decided in 2003 to start RACHEL GAFFNEY’S AUTHENTIC IRISH GOODS.

I began making my IRISH BUTTER SHORTBREADS 7 years ago. I subleased a bakery in Dallas and then outsourced to commercial production in 2008. This was an enormous challenge. Not only was I moving from a small facility to a large facility, but I was working with real ingredients. Using KERRYGOLD IRISH BUTTER is unlike working with a domestic butter. It took me almost 4 years of R&D to be able to make this commercially.

5. Rachel, you are one of Martha Stewart’s Dreamers to Doers. What was it like to visit the Martha Stewart set?

Last September I was reading something on line about a site called DREAMERS INTO DOERS. This is on the MARTHA STEWART site. There are 4,000 members. Here is where I met fellow DREAMERS who have turned their passion and dream into a business or charity. In January, forty of us got together in New York and attended the MARTHA STEWART show. It was a wonderul experience. The staff were exceptional and to see them behind the scenes, well lets just say it’s a Well-Oiled Machine.

6. Any vices, on the food front?

BUTTER. What some people consider to be a vice, I consider a neccessity and that’s really good butter. Not just because of the taste but because the butter is made from grass fed cattle. Cattle in Ireland are free to graze during our grass-growing season from March to November. I know that the butter I am feeding my family is great butter. There is absolutely nothing in it that your body cannot break down by itself.

7. What three things are always in your refrigerator?

I ALWAYS have Kerrygold Salted & Unsalted Butter in my fridge along with Dubliner cheese. My kids love to eat and cheese is a staple in their snacking diet. When they come home from school they will slice a Granny Smith apple, Dubliner Cheddar Cheese and put a slice of cheese between two slices of apple!

8. Something else we don’t know about you?

I love Irish Literature. I studied Speech & Drama from the age of 8 , performing in plays & ‘Feis Maitiu’ in Cork City. Every year I studied and sat my exams through the London College Of Music until I was 18.
In fact my next visit is going to be to the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, when one of Brian Friels plays graces the stage…………………..

Rachel Gaffney’s Irish Soda Bread


  • 3 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons wheat germ
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 teaspoons rolled oats
  • 1 egg
  • ½ quart buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil


Preheat Oven to 375 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl mix all dry ingredients. Make a well in the center then add all liquid ingredients. Mix together. Use a little whole wheat flour if the mixture is too wet to form a ball. Form a ball on a lightly greased baking sheet. Make a cross in the center and bake for approx 45 minutes.

P.S. from S.D.: I used White Wheat Whole Grain Flour from Dakota Family Mill in place of the traditional whole wheat flour. It offers the same health benefits, but delivers a lighter color and texture in the soda bread.

2 thoughts on “Authentic Irish Soda Bread — Really!

  1. Great interview and I will be trying this soda bread recipe this year. I make whole wheat soda bread every year, but am excited for a new recipe!

  2. Hi LoveFeast Table, You must be Irish! I cheated just a little bit with the soda bread. Shhhh, don’t tell Rachel. I replaced the whole wheat flour with White Wheat Whole Grain flour from Dakota Family Mill. Its flavor is less intense than traditional whole wheat flour, it produces a lighter texture and still offers all the great health benefits of traditional whole wheat flour.
    You’ll have to let us know how this recipe compares with the one you normally use. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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