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From One Kitchen to Another: A Family Recipe for Irish Brown Soda Bread

Ellen Clarke, a product manager at Martha Stewart, shares her family recipe for Irish Brown Soda Bread.

Baguettes and brioche, pan au chocolat, layer cakes, bonbons and other chocolate confections always seemed to surround Ellen Clarke’s desk. For the past year, Ellen, a product manager at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, spent three nights a week mixing up batter and rolling out dough in a pastry kitchen after work while she worked toward her diploma in Baking and Pastry Arts from the Institute of Culinary Education. Martha noticed Ellen’s baking and started tasting the results.

One recipe in particular caught Martha’s eye, and it has a very special meaning for Ellen too. It’s her Irish Brown Bread recipe passed down from her maternal grandmother, Mary Morrisroe. Ellen agreed to share it with you just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.


Mary on a trip to Ireland, around 1980.

“She’s always been an amazing cook,” Ellen says of her grandmother. “A lot of the recipes my family loves have come from her.”

Ellen remembers eating the bread on weekends, growing up, when her family would travel to events where her step-grandfather played Irish bluegrass music. Mary perfected the brown bread recipe over the years, and it won Best in Show in the bread-making contest at the New Haven Irish Club’s Annual Feis many times. Until now, Mary had kept the recipe a secret, even to her family: “When she would give us the recipe, she would always leave something out, but this is the real deal,” Ellen says.

Her grandmother, Ellen says, is one of the people who fostered her love of baking, a passion that ultimately led to her culinary school degree. Ellen is now further expanding her pastry skills by doing an externship in the bakery of Dominique Ansel, creator of the Cronut.


Make the Irish Brown Bread for yourself: Get the recipe -- and some advice from Mary: “She always says you have to make a cross on top, or it won’t turn out,” says Ellen, “but it’s really to let the air out.”

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