Irish Soda Bread

My first attempt to make Irish Soda bread resulted in inedible bricks years ago. I have since then avoided them. But with Saint Patrick’s Day coming up, I thought I would give it another try. I also wanted to try to make a “soaked” version, which added a whole other element, so I was a little nervous about how it would turn out.

I couldn’t be more pleased (as the half eaten loaf besides me attests too!). I am very excited about this recipe and think it would be a lovely bread to serve with savory stews, corned beef and cabbage or Irish Lamb Stew. But what would really please me would be to sit down with a piece of this toasted, slathered with butter and a nice cup of tea to go with it. Yum!

For those of you unfamiliar with soda bread, apparently Ireland’s climate didn’t grow hard wheat well, which is vital for yeasted bread. So they developed a bread risen from buttermilk and baking soda, which worked wonderfully with the soft wheat they could grow (this is what pastry flour is ground out of). It traditionally was a very plain and basic bread with no added flavoring. We have since added the raisins, orange peel or other additives for a more flavorful loaf. So feel free to experiment with different seeds, dried fruit, etc. Or, just leave it all out for a nice basic loaf.

Soda bread has a wonderful crunchy crust, and is quite dense. It won’t last quite as long as yeasted bread and is best fresh out of the oven (heavenly) or toasted. It was traditionally made every day, so keep that in mind.

This recipe was adapted from a recipe from Gourmet. The currants add sweetness and the caraway, savoriness. To make it “soaked” you mix just the first three ingredients together, and add the rest the next day. At least that’s how I did it. Salt is supposed to retard the work of the buttermilk on the flour and I didn’t want to the baking soda to lose it’s activity by morning. So I used a method I learned in a bread baking book where you knead in other ingredients to a already formed dough, rather than mixing it into the flour. It worked!

Irish Soda Bread

4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (I used half kamut flour and half whole wheat pastry flour)
1 3/4 cups well-shaken buttermilk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds
1 cup currants

The night before, put the flour into a large bowl. Cut (with knives or a pastry tool) the butter into the flour until the biggest pieces of butter are the size of a pea. Add the buttermilk. Stir with fork or spoon until a dough is starting to form. Then, knead carefully with your hands in the bowl until it just comes together to form a moist, slightly sticky dough (if it is really wet, you can add a little more flour, but don’t make it too dry! Also, don’t over knead! ) This is how mine looked.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave out on the counter top overnight. In the morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the rest of the ingredients in a separate bowl.


Take out your dough and press into a thick circle on a breadboard (use white flour to prevent sticking, though I didn’t need any).

Pour about half of the currant mixture on the dough
And then fold in half ..


Flatten out a bit again, and then pour the rest of the currant mixture on it and fold again.


You are now going to be gently folding and kneading the dough about 8 to 10 times. Currants will be falling everywhere (pick them up and stick them back in the dough, best you can), and you will almost feel like it won’t come together and then magically it will suddenly look like this
Beautiful already, isn’t it?!

Cut the dough in half, and gently form into 6 inch domed circle loaves, place on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper, like the below, and cut an X on the top of the loaf with a sharp knife.

Pop them in the middle of the oven for about 45-55 minutes, until golden brown top and bottom, and they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, middle of the loaf. Cool on cooling racks and enjoy with lots of Irish butter.

KimiHarris

I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

Comments

  1. Mrs. U says

    OOOOOHHH BOY!!!! This looks REALLY wonderful!!!! And yes, I agree that a nice cup of tea could be lovely with this yummy bread!!! Delightful!!! I cannot wait to try it!!

    His,
    Mrs. U

  2. Mrs. S says

    I love soda bread (or brown bread as they call it in Ireland). When I visited Ireland a couple of years ago we were served brown bread every morning for breakfast hot out of the oven. There were no currants or caraway seeds. I’ve never had a currant, but imagine it’s a bit like a raisin. That sounds like such a strange combination – raisins and caraway. Does this make a sweet bread because of all of the currants? Do you taste the caraway? I really want to try this with raisins and maybe caraway. I have been making a brown bread loaf for a while now but every time I attempted soaking things went terribly wrong. Thanks for sharing this!

    Mrs. S

  3. Kimi Harris says

    Mrs S,
    Was is called brown bread because it was made out of whole wheat? I am so curious as to what authentic soda bread tasted like, how nice that you were able to experience it there.

    You are right, currants are like raisins, just a lot smaller. It does make it sweeter (my sweet tooth didn’t mind at all!). The caraway and currants are an interesting combo. I wasn’t really sure I would like it when I was making it, but LOVED it in the end.
    It made a very nice contrast to the currants. But that’s not to say that everyone would like it.

    Maybe try a bit of raisins with a caraway seed or two, to see what you think before you mix it up?

    Either way, I am sure it would taste fine without them. :-)

  4. charlane says

    Hi Kimmie, great site, i love the pix of this bread and it tasted good too..i used whole spelt and yougurt..i had to add almost an extra cup of flour…it still was a bit softer looking than yours…but in the end unanimously delicious..w/crabaple jelly or honey and butter toasted…i also added cinnamon to mine oh and raisins as i did not have currants
    thanks for the recipe
    char

  5. KimiHarris says

    Karen,

    I bet that you could do either. Just make sure to defrost all the way before cooking, if you freeze the dough. :-)

  6. KimiHarris says

    Hey Steph,

    Sorry I didn’t see your comment until just now! Yes, you are supposed to mix in the soda and salt with the currants. :-)

  7. says

    I made this for St. Patrick’s Day and the whole family loved it! In fact, a friend got a taste and I passed on the recipe to her. So, thank you!

    Any chance you have a soaked hot cross bun recipe?

  8. Veronica says

    I’ve been looking for a better, (soaked), soda bread recipe! I tried this one last week and oved it. I love that it makes two loaves in one batch. The second loaf froze up really well. I did have one small issue, however. The bread tasted extra satly. I know that I followed the recipe exactly. I did use Bob’s Red Mill aluminum-free baking soda, which does, (in my opinion), taste slightly more bitter and salty than regular baking soda. Did anyone else have this problem? I think I’ll try regular baking soda next time, just to see if that makes the difference, but I’d much rather stick to Bob’s baking soda if I can. Thanks for this recipe, though! This bread is so soft and yummy! I don’t have a grain mill just yet, so I used whole wheat pastry four and spelt flour.

    KH: Thanks for the feedback! That’s helpful. So I looked over the recipe again, and it does have a pretty normal amount of both salt and baking soda, but it is true that different salts and baking soda both can be more “salty” or bitter tasting. I truthfully didn’t ever notice that with my batches, so you may be right that it could be the brand that you are using. I can’t remember what brand I have right now of baking soda (I poured it into a mason jar), it could actually be Bob’s Red Mill, but I am not sure as it may just be a normal store baking soda. I think that it could work with just 1 teaspoon of baking soda. If you try it again with adjusts, let me know if you are able to fix it! I think it could be helpful to others, too. :-)

  9. Veronica says

    Problem solved! I made this again with regular baking soda and it was perfect! I did take out just a pinch of the salt, just to be safe. I cut the dough in half, then added the caraway seeds and currants to only one loaf, because I wasn’t sure that I’d like it. I did, but not so much for a dinner bread. I think it’d be great that way with some jam and a cup of tea. I think I’ll leave out those two ingredients from now on and maybe even add a small amount of honey.

  10. Jessica says

    Hi there,

    I love your blog! nice to find recipes out there using the soaking method. However the last few times I’ve tried soaking flour overnight it has dark flecks in it. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong. I didn’t think it was too hot, and I thought the process didn’t work if you put it in the fridge. The first time was noticeably darker and I thought it smelled a bit off, this second time is less dark, and I can’t tell if the smell is normal or not. From the soaked crepes I made before, what I remember is it just smelled like warm buttermilk the next morning. For this recipe I used the amounts from another recipe I had on hand just because it used less ingredients (3 1/2 cups flour with 1 2/3 cup buttermilk). This is beginning to be a real waste of ingredients and I hate wasting! Any thoughts or ideas would be greatly appreciated! Maybe it’s just the dough soaking the liquid and drying, getting darker?

    Thanks so much!

  11. says

    I love this recipe. I’ve made it a couple times, most recently to accompany a shepherd’s pie. I added oats according to your recipe for dairy-free soda bread.

    My only problem with it is how fast it stales…but then, it’s fun to come up with a use for stale bread! This morning I made french toast casserole with it (got the recipe from the healthy home economist) and it was divine! The raisins and caraway that dotted the casserole gave each bite a pleasant surprise!

    Thanks for your recipes, Kimi. I love your site. :)

  12. Margaret says

    I stumbled upon your recipe while wondering how it would taste with bacon and wanted to point something out that many people don’t know…I make Irish soda bread all the time…I don’t use the currents or caraway, just raisins…but what people don’t know is that you can make it all at once, you don’t have to have it sit overnight and then continue. I have never let it sit and people pay for my bread around all the holidays now. This could be because I use regular flour n not wheat but I make so much there is no way I could wait overnight for it.

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