T raditional Irish soda bread is a very basic quick bread made from just four ingredients - flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. The baking soda reacts with the buttermilk to provide the leavening for this pleasingly plain and wholesome bread that is great spread with butter and a bit of jam or honey.
There are scores of recipes for nontraditional Irish soda breads too. One common variation is the addition of raisins, currents, or diced dried fruits to the dough. In Ireland, this would be called, “spotted dick” rather than soda bread. Other non traditional ingredients include sugar, butter, and eggs, which create sweeter richer soda breads, more common in the US.
Breads were traditionally made with baking soda in Ireland because the wheat was soft and lower in protein so it worked better for quick batter breads, than for yeast breads.
When we recently decided to make Irish soda bread to go with the homemade vegetable soup we were having for dinner, we looked through a few favorite cookbooks and opted for Marion’s Cunningham’s version, which appears in Baking with Julia Savor the Joys of Baking with America’s Best Bakers. As stressed in the recipe, the key to Irish Soda Bread, as with most quick breads, is to not overwork the dough.
As we enjoyed it both dipped into our soup and topped with soft butter and honey, I silently asked myself why I don’t make it more often, since it’s so simple to make and satisfying to eat.
I spent more time than I should today searching the internet for more great Irish soda bread recipes and came up with several that look like winners, including one for Irish Soda Bread muffins. I can hardly wait to try some of these Irish Soda Bread recipes.
Irish Soda Bread Recipe 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 2 cups buttermilk
Position one of your oven racks in the center and preheat the oven to 375 F. Grease an 8-inch glass baking pie plate or baking sheet; set aside.
In a medium bowl, blend the flour, baking soda, and salt together with a whisk or fork. Add the buttermilk and stir vigorously with a fork or wooden spoon just until the dough comes together.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for a minute. (The dough will not be smooth.) Form the dough into a a round loaf shape about 6 inches in diameter. With a sharp knife, cut an “x” in the top about 1/2-inch deep. Place the dough in the greased pan (it won’t touch the sides, which is fine) or on the baking sheet.
Bake for about 50 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and a skewer or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs. Remove from the oven and place the bread on a rack to cool completely. (The bread will need to be cool or just barely warm to slice well.)
This bread is best enjoyed within a day of baking. Once completely cool, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store it at room temperature.
10 More Irish Soda Bread Recipes * Some descriptions excerpted from the recipe sites.
Agnes O ‘Sullivan’s Brown Soda Bread — Irish soda bread is like a bowl of hot cereal to go. It’s moist, nutty, and slightly sweet, with the comfort level of my grandfather’s oatmeal. It makes you feel not only fed, but nourished. Recipe from Tea and Cookies.
Gluten Free Irish Soda Bread — For bakers using wheat, Irish soda bread is one of the easiest no-fuss breads to throw together. The gluten in the wheat works its magic to bind the quick-rising dough without yeast. But if gluten is no longer in the equation, creating a tender loaf of Irish soda bread is a tad more complicated. The less elastic dough must be gently coaxed, and nudged by the generosity and chemistry of gluten-free ingredients. You can’t simply substitute the flour and stir in the buttermilk and baking soda. Recipe from the Gluten Free Goddess.
Ideal Irish Soda Bread — By adding egg, sugar, caraway seeds, and butter to a traditional Irish soda bread recipe, you create a loaf that is fit for a Sunday breakfast or brunch. Recipe from the Martha Stewart website.
Irish American Soda Bread – Irish-American soda bread is a sweeter, lighter, more interesting riff on the original Irish soda bread, a simple combination of flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk. No eggs, no sugar, no raisins or caraway seeds… all of those came later.
And in America, land of “too much is just enough,” the formula became richer still, with the addition of butter, and yet more sugar. The following soda bread tastes like a sweet, rich scone, a tiny bit crumbly but moist enough to hold together nicely when it’s sliced. This recipe can also be made with 1 cup all-purpose flour and 2 cups whole wheat flour according to King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking: Delicious Recipes Using Nutritious Whole Grains. Recipe from King Arthur Flour.
Irish Soda Bread Muffins – So who says Irish soda bread HAS to be made in a round or loaf pan? These coffee-break-sized muffins, bursting with tiny sweet currants and a hint (or a hit, your choice) of caraway, are the perfect offering for St. Patrick’s Day. Recipe from King Arthur Flour.
Irish Soda Bread Recipe — The Cook’s Illustrated Recipe for real Irish Soda Bread as they give it, which uses a combination of all purpose and cake flour to mimic Irish wheat, which is softer than American. Recipe from BakeSpace.