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 leavening from buttermilk and baking soda is what gives the bread its name: "soda bread."
Video: How to Make Irish Soda Bread
Irish Soda Bread
Why the Cross in the Center?
Why the cross in the center? Scoring the dough will help the heat reach the center of the loaf while baking.
Ingredients for Irish Soda Bread
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 on a regular baking sheet.
How Long Does Irish Soda Bread Last?
Soda bread dries out quickly so it really is only good for a day or two. It is best eaten freshly baked and warm or toasted. Keep it wrapped in plastic wrap or foil.
That said, you can make it ahead and freeze it (let it cool to room temperature first). Wrap it tightly first in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. It will last up to 2 months frozen.
More Irish-Style Breads to Make
- Caraway Soda Bread
- Oatmeal Soda Bread
- Soda Bread Biscuits
- Irish Brown Bread
- Guinness Bread with Molasses
What Is Traditional Irish Soda Bread?
Traditionally, bread in Ireland was made in a skillet because the wheat that grew there was what's called "soft" wheat, which contained less gluten than its counterparts in America. The domestic Irish wheat didn't interact well with yeast and did not rise very well.
Hence, the introduction of baking soda as a leavening agent, which reacts with the buttermilk to form small carbon dioxide bubbles, approximating the chemical reaction of yeast.
What we consider traditional Irish bread came about because of the Native Americans, who used a sort of wood ash as a leavening agent to make bread without yeast. This method of making bread was introduced to Ireland in the 1830s.
Different types of soda bread are popular throughout Ireland, but all of them are pretty simple, everyday breads. They were found in every household to mop up stews or to enjoy with a cup of tea. The Northern Irish divide their dough into 4 triangles, while the Southerners made theirs round with a cross shape on top.
Here in America, we like to put in add-ins like caraway seeds, currants, raisins, or honey. Modern Irish soda breads might contain nuts, orange zest, or even Guinness.
However you enjoy your soda bread, be sure to have it fresh from the oven, a piece torn off, slathered with some good butter.
There are only a few ingredients in this soda bread recipe, so it's best if made with real buttermilk. However, there are a few buttermilk substitutions that work well and will still react with the baking soda to make the bread rise. Kefir works especially well, or you can thin yogurt to the consistency of buttermilk using plain milk.
You can also acidify milk with lemon juice or white vinegar. Add 2 scant tablespoons to a measuring cup and top with whole milk to make 1 3/4 cups total. Stir and let sit for a few minutes until the mixture curdles, then proceed with the recipe as written.
What to Serve with Irish Soda Bread
- Classic Corned Beef and Cabbage
- Instant Pot Corned Beef and Cabbage
- Irish Beef Stew
- Irish Lamb Stew with Bacon
- Healthy Shepherd's Pie
Irish Soda Bread
4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoons butter, cubed and slightly softened
1 cup currants or raisins
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
Preheat the oven:
Preheat the oven to 425°F.
Whisk together the dry ingredients:
In a large mixing bowl, whisk 4 cups of the flour together with the sugar, salt, and baking soda.
Work in the butter and add the currants:
Using your (clean) fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Then add in the currants or raisins.
Add the egg and buttermilk:
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add the beaten egg and buttermilk to the well and mix in with a wooden spoon until the dough is too stiff to stir.
Form the dough:
Use floured hands to gently gather the dough into a rough ball shape. The dough will be soft and sticky. If it is more like a batter than a dough, add up to 1/2 cup more flour until you have a sticky, shaggy dough.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and shape into 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 the flour is just moistened and the dough just barely comes together. Shaggy is good. If you over-work the dough the bread will end up tough.
Score with an X:
Transfer the 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 the 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.
Bake until golden:
Transfer to the oven and bake at 425°F until the bread is golden and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped, about 35 to 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. Be sure to put a pot holder over it.
Cool, slice, and serve:
Remove the pan or sheet from the oven, and let the bread sit in the pan or on the sheet for 5 to 10 minutes. Then, remove to a rack to cool briefly.
Serve the bread warm, at room temperature, or sliced and toasted. Best when eaten warm and just baked.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 5g||6%|
|Saturated Fat 3g||14%|
|Total Carbohydrate 47g||17%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||7%|
|Total Sugars 11g|
|Vitamin C 1mg||5%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|