Irish Soda Bread

Most people probably use St. Patty’s day as an excuse to drink copious amounts of beer (most likely green in color); I use it as an excuse to bake copious amounts of bread. Actually this is the first time I have made Irish Soda Bread, and I am a fan. There is no yeast involved, and it only takes an hour to have hot, crusty, delicious bread in your hand. The recipe is so simple, I already have it memorized. 

When researching Soda Bread I found that there are really only 4 ingredients needed: flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk. That pretty much is traditional as you can get. The reason yeast is not needed is because the lactic acid in the buttermilk reacts with the baking soda creating CO2. This helps to the bread to rise, and gives the bread it’s “soda” name. Bastardization of the recipe is pretty mainstream here in the States though, and extra ingredients are often added. The recipe I used (an Ina Garten Recipe) called for orange zest, currants, butter, and some sugar. Actually, I was really surprised how similar the recipe was to a scone recipe. I was half-expecting the bread to look like a giant scone when it came out of the oven. Thankfully though the end product was more bread than biscuit. I did change the recipe by substituting whole wheat flour in place of white flour. I think this helped to really give the bread some chewiness and texture. Because of the fruit and sugar in the recipe, the loaf turned out to be more of a breakfast bread. The last couple mornings I have been slicing off a piece, toasting it, and then topping it with some of my Kumquat Tangelo Marmalade. The bread is dense and filling, and pairs nicely with my morning latte.

Since that first loaf, I have already made soda bread two more times! At work we were featuring the traditional corned beef and cabbage, so I made a double batch of the dough and divided it into 32 rolls. This time I used white flour and left out the currants, orange zest, and sugar. The rolls were just as delicious as the large loaf, but they had more of a biscuit appearance and taste (with a lot less butter) and were less “bread-like.” Later that same day, my dad invited Luigi (my husband) and me over for a corned beef dinner. Again, more soda bread rolls! This time I washed them down with an Irish Stout, super tasty. My conclusion is that soda bread can pretty much be eaten with anything. And why not? Since they only take about 5 minutes to make, you can make them for every meal!

Irish Soda Bread
*Adapted from Ina Garten Recipe
*Makes one Large loaf, or 16 Small Rolls

4 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 1/2 tsp Salt
4 TBSP Sugar
4 TBSP Butter – cold, unsalted, cut into bits
1 Egg
1 3/4 cups Buttermilk
1 Orange – zest
1 cup Currants

*Serve with Kumquat Tangelo Marmalade

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Stir to combine. Cut the butter into these dry ingredients using a pastry cutter or forks. Make sure the butter is evenly incorporated.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk, and orange zest. Add this mixture to the bowl with the flour. Gently stir to bring all ingredients together. Add the currants, and mix to combine. The dough will be sticky.
  3. Turn out the dough to a floured surface. Knead a couple of times to bring the dough together. Form the dough into one large ball for a single loaf. For rolls, cut the dough into 16 pieces and shape into balls.               
  4. Place the dough onto a sheet tray lined with parchment or a silpat. Using a sharp knife, cut a small “X” into the top of the dough (this helps the loaf to expand in the oven). For one large loaf, bake for about 45 minutes. For Rolls, bake about 15-20 minutes. The bread should be nice and brown on top, and sound hollow when tapped. Let cool before slicing.   

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