Soda bread – or Irish soda bread – is an easy to make quickbread that uses baking soda as a leavening agent. What makes it different from other quickbreads is that soda bread dough is very firm and the bread is generally baked in a free-form loaf, much like yeasted breads are. The bread is very easy to make, so you can have a fresh loaf baked and ready to eat in only a few minutes, and it is easy to put your own spin on the basic recipe by adding other flavorful ingredients. A plain soda bread might contain caraway seeds or raisins. This Lemon and Walnut Soda Bread is a citrusy twist on the basic recipe, with a light lemon flavor and subtle sweetness to it.
Lemon and buttermilk is a combination that I often use in springtime baking, both in cakes and bars, and that same combination makes this loaf seem perfect for a springtime brunch. I used both lemon zest and strips of candied lemon peel to give this bread its lemon flavor. The candied peel has a sweeter, more concentrated flavor than the zest alone does and is a nice addition for lemon-lovers (although you can skip it in favor of more zest if you don’t want to make candied peel for this recipe). Walnuts have a buttery, slightly citrusy flavor that makes them a good match for the lemon in this recipe. I use untoasted walnuts, chop them into fairly large pieces and stir them in. Pecans will also work if you prefer them, and you can omit the nuts completely if you want to serve your bread as a plain lemon loaf.
This soda bread is slightly sweeter (although not very sweet) than many other soda breads and stands well on its own, or served with butter and honey. If you want to add a little extra sweetness, add a generous sprinkle of sugar to the top of the loaf before baking to give it a nice, sweet crust.
Citrus Walnut Soda Bread
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/4 cup candied lemon peel*
1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, sugar and lemon zest. Stir in candied lemon peel and walnuts. Pour in buttermilk, and stir until dough comes together into shaggy ball.
Place dough on a very lightly floured surface and knead for about 1 minute, just until the dough becomes a little more uniform. Form into a disc about 1 1/2 inches high and place on prepared baking sheet. Cut a deep cross in the top with a sharp knife.
Bake 30-35 minutes, until the top is a dark golden brown. A toothpick will come out clean when inserted into the center.
Allow to cool on a wire rack before slicing.
Makes 1 loaf, serves 6-8.
*Note: If you are not going to include candied lemon peel in your bread, use double the lemon zest for a brighter lemon flavor.