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Traditional Irish Soda Bread

Traditional Irish Soda Bread recipe. Includes options for sweet and savory add-ins to make it a little more “non-traditional.”

Traditional Irish Soda Bread recipe. Includes options for sweet and savory add-ins.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

As I write this, I'm sitting with my shamrock socks on (that I may or may not have stolen from my mom) and a shamrock scarf my grandma sent in the mail. Later today I'll take a picture of my attire (along with eating this Irish soda bread) and send it to my grandpa. ‘Cause that's how we celebrate.

This is the first “Irish food” recipe I've done, but not for lack of thought. Irish food includes a lot of meat and potatoes. And alcohol. Bailey's cream would have been a good bet.

But I'm never against baking a good loaf of bread.

Let me tell you, I learned quite a few things about Irish soda bread. For one, did you know there is a SOCIETY for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread? I don't know how official this is or anything, but there's a website. Basically it's yelling at anyone who adds more than the traditional ingredients to this bread – flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. Anything more and they call it “tea cake.”

So I did as instructed and only used those four ingredients, made an X in the dough (this is to help the inside cook more evenly) and popped it in the oven.

Then I realized why people usually add more stuff in.

Traditional Irish Soda Bread recipe. Includes options for sweet and savory add-ins.It's still BREAD don't get me wrong, but it's a very dense and simple bread. This is why a lot of quick breads are usually sweetened with fruits or things, since they're missing out on the flavor from yeast and eggs.

Obviously a good thing for getting through Famine years, but not as difficult to understand why Americans have complicated it a bit.

So while this is still the TRADITIONAL Irish soda bread recipe, I'm still going to give you some options for add-ins. I've made both versions and will eat both versions. Especially with a little Irish butter and/or Irish cheddar cheese. I will not be going hungry this weekend.

Traditional Irish Soda Bread recipe. Includes options for sweet and savory add-ins.

Actually speaking of cheddar cheese, that's one thing you could add for a savory version. Rosemary or other herbs are another option. Adding an egg will make it fluffier, butter will add some flavor and texture. But remember, all stray away from what makes it “traditional.”

Sweet options are pretty popular with dried fruit and/or caraway seeds. Caraway seeds are apparently what's used on rye bread. Raisins are a common choice, and I tried a version with dried cherries (below).

Just a word of advice – whatever mix-ins you use (1/2 cup to 1 cup worth), add it to the flour before your buttermilk or else it probably won't mix properly. I had to press all the cherries in to the top of the bread and even then they didn't stick.

For this version I also added a little melted butter to the top and a couple tablespoons of sugar to sweeten. Pretty, but probably not what Irish table spreads looked like back in the day.
Traditional Irish Soda Bread recipe. Includes options for sweet and savory add-ins.

 

Traditional Irish Soda Bread recipe. Includes options for sweet and savory add-ins.

Whichever way you try, let me know what you think! It's become common to bake the bread on a cast-iron skillet, but I also baked one in a dutch oven and you could just plop it on a baking sheet. Either way you'll be well-fed!

Buttermilk Substitutions

No buttermilk? To make your own buttermilk for this recipe, , combine 1.5 cups milk with 1.5 tablespoons of either lemon juice or white vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes. Use 1.5 cups in the recipe (there will be a tablespoon or so leftover, and use only if the dough is dry). See this post from Tastes Better From Scratch for more options and details about making your own buttermilk.

Dairy-free option – coconut “buttermilk”: I have not tried this way personally, but you can substitute coconut buttermilk to make this dairy-free / vegan. To make your own coconut buttermilk, combine 1.5 cups canned coconut milk with 1.5 tablespoons of either lemon juice or white vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes.

 

Another recipe for St. Patrick's Day: Irish Pub-Style POTATO Nachos!

Yield: 1 loaf

Traditional Irish Soda Bread

Traditional Irish Soda Bread recipe. Includes options for sweet and savory add-ins.

Traditional Irish Soda Bread recipe. Includes options for sweet and savory add-ins to make it a little more "non-traditional."

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. In a mixing bowl, add flour, baking soda and salt. Whisk together.
  3. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in buttermilk. Mix together (using hands is the best way to do this) until just combined. Do not overwork or knead the dough. Texture should be slightly crumbly but just sticking together.
  4. Form into a ball and place on a cast iron skillet, greased baking sheet or dutch oven. Make an "X" in the dough with a knife, about an inch deep.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes or until outside is browned.

Notes

*A general rule of thumb is 1 lb. flour to 12 oz. buttermilk, with a spoon of baking soda and salt. If the dough is too crumbly, add more buttermilk (a tablespoon at a time) until it just sticks together. Same if dough is too wet, add more flour (a tablespoon at a time).

**See post write-up for ideas for mix-in's (sweet and savory options) for a "non-traditional" soda bread recipe.

Buttermilk substitutions: No buttermilk? To make your own buttermilk for this recipe, , combine 1.5 cups milk with 1.5 tablespoons of either lemon juice or white vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes. Use 1.5 cups in the recipe (there will be a tablespoon or so leftover, and use only if the dough is dry or crumbly as mentioned above).

Dairy-free option - coconut "buttermilk": I have not tried this way personally, but you can substitute coconut buttermilk to make this dairy-free / vegan. To make your own coconut buttermilk, combine 1.5 cups canned coconut milk with 1.5 tablespoons of either lemon juice or white vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes. Use 1.5 cups in the recipe (there will be a tablespoon or so leftover, and use only if the dough is dry or crumbly as mentioned above).

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

1

Serving Size:

1 loaf

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1967Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 4082mgCarbohydrates: 399gFiber: 14gSugar: 19gProtein: 64g

Nutrition information is calculated automatically by an online tool at Nutritionix. It is not always accurate. Please use your own tools to check if you rely on this information.

Did you make this recipe?

I'd love to see! Tag @trialandeater on Instagram and hashtag it #trialandeater

4 ingredient Traditional Irish Soda Bread recipe. Includes options for sweet and savory add-ins that make it a little more untraditional!

 

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Sharon

Sunday 29th of March 2020

I made this bread without adding anything and I love it. I don't really like the sweet version so this recipe was the best!!! Thank you

patricia a shea

Sunday 17th of March 2019

I did not try this recipe yet because I swear by my own. Start with the above ingredients. The basics are similar but I add 4 tsps. of baking powder, 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of raisins (floured before adding), 1 tsp. caraway seeds, 1 stick of butter, 2 eggs and 1 c. of milk. I bake in a greased spider (cast iron skillet) for 1 to 1 1/2 hours at 350* It is best served with butter. I bake multiple loafs because they are devoured, especially today. Happy St. Patrick's Day, Kelly.

Pam

Saturday 27th of June 2020

@Kelly, do you include all the ingredients from the suggested recipe and add the milk, etc?? Sorry just want to make sure that I am not substituting Sounds yummy Pam

Kelly

Sunday 17th of March 2019

Thanks Pat - I'll have to try your version too!