Irish Soda Bread

It appears everyone has their favorite Irish soda bread recipe. Some with caraway seeds, some with raisins, some with both, some with neither.

The essential ingredients in a traditional Irish soda bread are flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. The acid in buttermilk reacts with the base of the baking soda to provide the bread’s leavening.

This soda bread is a slightly fancied up Americanized version of the Irish classic, with a little butter, sugar, an egg, and some currants or raisins added to the base. You can bake it in a cast iron frying pan (now that’s traditional!) or an a regular baking sheet.

You can also make a simpler version without eggs or currants, but with some caraway seeds, or you could turn your soda bread dough into biscuits.

Soda bread dries out quickly so is only good for a day or two. It is best eaten freshly baked and warm or toasted.

Updated from the archives, first posted 2007.

Irish Soda Bread Recipe

  • Prep: 15 minutes
  • Cook: 40 minutes
  • Yield: Makes one loaf

Ingredients

  • 4 to 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup currants or raisins
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk

Method

1 Whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking soda: Preheat oven to 425°. Whisk together 4 cups of flour, the sugar, salt, and baking soda into a large mixing bowl.

2 Work the butter into the flour, add currants or raisins: Using your (clean) fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal, then add in the currants or raisins.

3 Make a well, add buttermilk, egg, knead into dough: Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add beaten egg and buttermilk to well and mix in with a wooden spoon until dough is too stiff to stir.

Dust hands with a little flour, then gently knead dough in the bowl just long enough to form a rough ball. If the dough is too sticky to work with, add in a little more flour. Do not over-knead!

Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and shape into a round loaf. Note that the dough will be a little sticky, and quite shaggy (a little like a shortcake biscuit dough).

You want to work it just enough so that the flour is just moistened and the dough just barely comes together. Shaggy is good. If you over-knead, the bread will end up tough.

4 Score with an X and bake: Transfer dough to a large, lightly greased cast-iron skillet or a baking sheet (it will flatten out a bit in the pan or on the baking sheet).

Using a serrated knife, score top of dough about an inch and a half deep in an "X" shape. The purpose of the scoring is to help heat get into the center of the dough while it cooks.

Transfer to oven and bake until bread is golden and bottom sounds hollow when tapped, about 35-45 minutes. (If you use a cast iron pan, it may take a little longer as it takes longer for the pan to heat up than a baking sheet.) Check for doneness also by inserting a long, thin skewer into the center. If it comes out clean, it's done.

Hint 1: If the top is getting too dark while baking, tent the bread with some aluminum foil.

Hint 2: If you use a cast iron skillet to cook the bread in the oven, be very careful when you take the pan out. It's easy to forget that the handle is extremely hot. Cool the handle with an ice cube, or put a pot holder over it.

5 Let cool a few minutes: Remove pan or sheet from oven, let bread sit in the pan or on the sheet for 5-10 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool briefly. Serve bread warm, at room temperature, or sliced and toasted. Best when eaten warm and just baked.

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Showing 4 of 130 Comments / Reviews

  • Pat

    My grandma (straight from County Cork) never used butter, so I followed her lead and use Crisco which is basically lard. Also she never used an egg or sugar in the batter but did sprinkle light sugar on top just out of the oven. Buttermilk, Raisins and carroway a must!
    For those who don’t like the crumbliness then an egg should fix that, but it is supposed to be crumbly.
    If it gets hard after a day or so, try wrapping the bread in a moist (not wet!) clean dish towel and bake for about 7/8 mins at 350°.

  • Shannon Foreman

    I liked this bread recipe very much.
    Easy to follow and make. Very delicious!

  • I would not perfer to give it

    It was just great, best ever and so, so simple

  • Peggy

    I made this for st. Pat's day. The only deviation was I added 2 tbsp of caraway seeds. It came out perfectly! Nice crunchy crust and moist inside. My husband said it was the best he ever had! I had to make another this week!

    xxxxxyyyyy
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