When we think of Irish food, we tend to think of fish and chips and chocolates, and when we think of famous European breads, we think of France and Italy. But many visitors to Ireland are surprised and delighted to discover traditional Irish breads and cakes. Our baked specialties are hearty and solid, exactly what a day trekking along the rolling fields or exploring the rugged coastline calls for. Irish baked goods are not light and fluffy confectionary. They are down to earth goodness. And they are perfect with a steaming mug of proper Irish tea. Here’s a quick run-down on the delights you can find in Irish kitchens. You can find plenty of recipes online to make these tasty Irish gifts at home.
- Soda Bread – Soda bread is actually a whole category of breads. Made without yeast, soda bread can be made with white or brown flour, and it can include raisins or not. It gets its unique taste from buttermilk. Baked in round loaves with an X on the top, soda bread is delicious eaten warm with butter.
- Brown Bread – Irish brown bread is another quick bread (ie, made without yeast). These flat, wide loaves are also made with buttermilk, but have a very different taste than soda bread. Irish brown bread has a rich flavour, and is made with coarse, whole wheat flour. It is ideal with smoked salmon.
- Potato Farls – These are not baked, but they are also known as potato cakes – and they are too delicious to leave off this list. The dough is rolled out into a circle, then cut into quarters before being fried. This Ulster favorite uses about twice as much potato as wheat flour, and is traditionally served at breakfast.
- Porter Cake – One of the most well-known culinary Irish gifts is our talent for cooking with Guinness. Porter cake is a type of fruit cake with almonds, cinnamon and other spices. The stout and spices combine for a distinctive flavour that is irresistible with a cup of tea. This one is popular with people who don’t like overly sweet desserts.
- Fruit Cake – Many people who claim not to like fruit cake just haven’t met the right one yet! An Irish fruit cake is not sticky-sweet. While it features raisins, sultanas, cherries and mixed peel, there is more cake than fruit. This loaf cake is best served warm with a touch of butter and cup of tea.
Baking is one of the least appreciated Irish gifts, but our culinary heritage includes some wonderful breads and cakes. Baking can be a relaxing pastime as well as a great way to fill your home with delicious smells. Most Irish entertaining is not like a massive St. Patrick’s Day party. It isn’t focused on drinking. The Irish generally go out to the pub for a drink. When we want to visit with loved ones and have a real conversation, we gather at home over tea with something tasty fresh out of the oven. Whether you serve them on delicate Belleek or an Amazing Woman dish, nothing says ‘Irish home’ like these treats.