Recipes

Dad’s Irish Soda Bread

By Patricia and Milunka Radicevic
 

When Milunka Radicevic was a girl, she and her siblings would spend holidays and summer breaks with their mother’s family in New York. Those were carefree times spent with aunts and grandparents, and inevitably good food. Traditional food. Patricia, Milunka’s mother, was reared in New York, celebrating customs passed down from her father’s Irish ancestors and her mother’s Lithuanian culture. And what the kids looked forward to eating were the specialties that marked special occasions, dishes like Irish soda bread and Lithuanian kruschiki, a deep-fried pastry.

Patricia has carried the traditions forward, and they continue to blend past and present here in this melting pot city. Patricia has run their Bay View Serbian restaurant, Three Brothers, for over 52 years, most of that time with her late husband, Branko, whose heritage is reflected in the cuisine. When Patricia brought her own food traditions to Milwaukee, they melded with Branko’s and the extended Three Brothers family, as Milunka likes to call it.

“My grandparents would come for the Serbian holidays, and when they were retired, they would visit more, they would come and help,” says Milunka. “My grandfather would wash the dishes, my grandfather would help make the Serbian sausages, my grandfather would sit with the copper kettle and make plum pudding. And even though my grandmother didn't speak much English and my grandfather didn’t speak Serbian, my [mother] would be so pleased to see my grandfather in a tank top sweating, making the bread [and] making this kruschiki, and so it was like the families got to know each other through food.”

The soda bread was one of Branko’s favorites, but then, all breads were, and breads figure heavily in Serbian cuisine, too. Milunka’s father loved to dip his wife’s bread into the Serbian goulash. You have that “caraway flavor in the beef stew, and then you have that hint of sweetness from the raisins or the currants,” Milunka says.

This beloved loaf shines with other dishes, too. They ran specials at the restaurant, serving the bread with ajvar, a Serbian red pepper spread – “You wouldn’t necessarily think that it would go well, because the peppers are so crazy sweet. If my mother didn't tell me that this was my grandfather's recipe, and she just made it, I would have thought it was my grandmother's Serbian-side recipes.” This soda bread belongs to everyone.

Ingredients

6-8 servings

4 cups all-purpose flour (sifted, so that the flour is less dense)

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

6 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 1/2 cups dark seedless raisins

1 tablespoon caraway seeds

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Instructions

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch Pyrex pie plate well. In a large bowl with a fork, mix the first five ingredients. With a pastry blender or two knives used in a scissors fashion, cut in the margarine or butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the raisins and caraway.

 

In a small bowl with a fork, beat the eggs lightly. Remove 1 tablespoon and reserve. Stir the buttermilk into the remaining egg, and stir into flour mixture just until moistened (dough will be sticky).

 

Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface. With floured hands, knead about 10 strokes to mix thoroughly. Shape the dough into ball and place on the greased pie plate. With a sharp knife, cut a 4-inch cross about a quarter-inch deep. Brush the dough with reserved egg.

 

Bake the dough about 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a plate on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Remove from the plate and cool completely on the rack. Makes one loaf.

Bio

Patricia Radicevic has been at the helm of the James Beard Award-winning Three Brothers Restaurant, a Serbian institution, for over 51 years. Patricia mastered the recipes and passion of her mentor – mother-in-law Milunka Radicevic. Three Brothers opened in 1956. And it was and still is a family operation. Her daughter, Milunka, grew up with her siblings in the restaurant. She learned to cook early, working in the kitchen, doing the flowers or serving. Patricia and Milunka now work daily side by side preparing the old-country recipes passed down through three generations. Along with earning accolades in many publications, including Bon Appetit and the New York Times, the Radicevics had the honor of cooking for the legendary Julia Child.

Patricia and Milunka Radicevic

Three Brothers

Patricia and Milunka Radicevic

Three Brothers

About Three Brothers