HEREAFTER: Vona Groarke’s White Soda Bread

Soda Bread is the staple food of an Irish diet, be it 1882 or 2022. Whereas it would have been baked in an iron skillet over an open turf fire when Ellen O’Hara, the subject of my book, Hereafter, an Irish immigrant who made a life for herself in New York while financially supporting those at home was young,  I make this bread in a modern convection oven: otherwise, the recipe is unchanged. Though many will have it off by heart, almost every baker in Ireland will have it in a recipe book, quite possibly written out in a hand that is generations old; the paper stained with usage, the ink faded here and there.
Serve it with vegetable broth: hearty, healthy, and delicious—as well as being unfussy about which specific vegetables you use— broth will, accompanied by the soda bread, make several wholesome meals. If you happen to live somewhere the weather thinks it’s someway Irish, broth is like central heating, warming you from the inside out.
And while the broth will nourish your body, the scent of baking bread will feed your soul. Any bread left over after lunch (as if!), will still be good the next day. Try it for breakfast with butter and homemade blackcurrant or rhubarb jam – a 5* start to your day! This bread freezes beautifully, you can have a welcome quarter loaf to hand, any time of day or night. Wonderful with fresh butter for an authentic Irish taste! It’s also great with a good Irish cheddar and a slice of apple on top. Or, for continental flavor, try dipping the bread in seasoned, good-quality olive oil with a dash of balsamic vinegar.
Whatever your topping, this bread will conjure magic from basic foodstuffs, and make an Irish feast out of an ordinary meal.
-Vona Groarke


8 servings

Prep Time

20 mins

Cook Time

40 mins

HEREAFTER: Vona Groarke’s White Soda Bread

  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ cup (2 tablespoons ) butter
  1. Heat oven to 375°F . In a medium bowl, whisk egg and buttermilk.
  2. Sift flour, baking soda and salt into large bowl. Cut in butter using a pastry cutter, fork or your fingers, and combine until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add egg and buttermilk. Gently fold the dough together.
  3. Lightly flour a cutting board. Pour crumbly dough onto a lightly floured work surface. With floured hands, work the dough into a ball as best you can, then knead for about 30 seconds or until all the flour is moistened. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour. Turn out onto board and knead lightly. Shape dough into a round and flatten slightly.
  4. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and cut a deep cross with a knife. Bake approximately 30-40 mins, or until bread is lightly browned and center is cooked through. Cool on wire rack before serving.