Darina’s Loaf For A Saint!

Darina's Loaf For A Saint!

Immediate Release - March 2021

Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cookery School shares one of her favourite recipes with us, just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day. This is one of her many discoveries in her travels all over the world. It’s a traditional Irish fruit loaf, known in the USA as Spotted Dog.  Read on for Darina’s own introduction, with recipes taken from her book, Irish Traditional Cooking, Revised Edition. 

Also in March and April, the school is running two courses, headed up by Senior Tutor Pamela Black. Baking and Cake Decorating runs on Saturday 21st March. Bake Your Own Sourdough, Yeast and Soda Breads is on Wednesday 8th April and Friday 19th April. 

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To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day we will make this delicious version of Spotted Dog with caraway seeds added, as the Americans love to do. I first came across this in Zabars in New York where they also sold mini versions called Spotted Puppies – how cute is that!

At times of the year when the men were working particularly hard in the fields, the farmer’s wife would go out of her way to reward them with a richer bread than usual for tea. According to her means she might throw in a fistful of currants or raisins, some sugar and an egg if there was one to spare. The resulting bread, the traditional Irish ‘sweet cake’, had different names in different parts of the country – spotted dog, curnie cake, railway cake and so on. Currant bread was not just for haymaking and threshing but was also a treat for Sundays and special occasions.

  • Makes 1 loaf
  • 450g (1lb/4 cups) plain white flour
  • 1–2 tablespoons (1 1/4 – 2 1/2 American tablespoons) sugar
  • 1 level teaspoon salt
  • 1 level teaspoon bread soda (bicarbonate of soda), sieved
  • 75–110g (3–4oz) sultanas, 2 teaspoons of caraway seeds
  • 300ml (10fl oz/1 1/4 cups) sour milk or buttermilk
  • 1 egg, free-range if possible (optional – you may not need all the milk if you use the egg).

Preheat your oven to 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8.

Sieve the dry ingredients, add the fruit and caraway seeds and mix well. Make a well in the centre and pour most of the milk in at once with the egg. Using one hand, mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a floured board and knead it lightly for a few seconds, just enough to tidy it up. Pat the dough into a roundabout 4cm (1 1/2 inch) deep and cut a deep cross on it.

Bake for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6 and continue to cook for approximately 30 minutes. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom: if it is cooked, it will sound hollow.

Serve spotted dog freshly baked, cut into thick slices and generously slathered with butter. Simply delicious!


20/08/2012 (RD) (15551) (Irish Traditional Cooking Revised Edition)



Darina Allen has travelled the world in search of the best dishes to bring back to Ballymaloe Cookery School.  At this time of year, she has shared one of her favourite findings with us. It’s a traditional Irish fruit loaf, renamed in the USA to Spotted Dog! Read on for Darina’s own introduction and recipe, taken from her book, Irish Traditional Cooking, Revised Edition.

Written by: Good Food Ireland



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