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Traditional Irish Soda Bread

Soda Bread

The New York Times ran an article this week about traditional Irish soda bread – or rather, they ran an article that discussed how the loaf presented as “traditional” in the US is often not. The author’s loaf had butter, sugar and eggs in it, as well as raisins, and turned into a very cake-like loaf. I myself am guilty, to a degree, of making a less-than-traditional loaf. I don’t use butter or eggs, but I usually add a bit of sugar, caraway seeds and raisins. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, it is good to know that the Irish soda bread that I typically make is a variation on the standard, not the standard itself.

The article hinted at the fact that the traditional recipe used only flour, buttermilk, salt and baking soda, but for some reason failed to include the recipe (it did include the cake-like version, however). I thought I’d step up and fill in the gap. I took out all the extraneous ingredients from my usual recipe and whittled it down to a plain, basic traditional loaf.

The bread is best when it is warm and comes out of the oven with a crisp crust and a tender interior. It is easy to taste the buttermilk in the loaf, but it is very plain bread. I like it with soup, where it can sop up broth, or cut into slices (I often simply pull pieces off the loaf) and topped with butter or jam. Irish butter is usually salted and will taste better with the bread than unsalted butter.

Traditional Irish Soda Bread
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 – 1 1/4 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients and stir together. Add buttermilk and mix with a large spoon (or with your hands, shaping your fingers into a “claw”) until the dough comes together. You might need two tablespoons more or less buttermilk depending on the weather. The dough should be moist, but not so sticky it is very hard to handle.
Shape into a round and place on baking sheet. Cut an X into the top with a sharp knife and bake for about 45 minutes, until dark golden. A toothpick will come out clean.
Cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before slicing.

This bread is best served soon after baking.

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  • jason
    April 9, 2007

    New site, new comment.

    Toddler approved recipe 🙂 Quick breads are easy enough to work up that even a 2-year old has an attention span long enough to help make it.

  • K.
    October 11, 2007

    Bannock. This “Irish” bread is Metis bannock.

  • Tiffany
    March 10, 2009

    THANK YOU!!! I’ve looked for years for a true Irish Soda Bread recipe. Can’t believe I never found this tucked away on your site. I’m going to make it this year for St. Paddy’s Day (my birthday!!).

  • Megan
    March 18, 2009

    Made this last night and it turned out well except I think a bit salty (before it was baked the dough was like straight salt!)- after it was baked the salt taste thinned out a bit but I made a second loaf with only 1/2 tsp salt (all other ingredients the same) and it worked out much better! Overall, GREAT tasing recipe (I admit that I did add some raisins!)…I am going to try this with other fruit/ cholcolate additions in the future!

  • kathleen Austin
    April 7, 2009

    This is the traditional way my mother who was from County Meath made her bread and it is the favorite of my children although my Husband makes his mother’s receipe (who was from County Tyrone) just like the cake and calls it Irish bread But I know differently.

  • PastryPrincess
    March 6, 2010

    there you go, this is what i was talking about! 😉 i make this with wholegrain flour to make it traditional brown soda bread and its delicious. so easy to make and always turns out great. when its scent fills the kitchen i feel like im living in galway again – bliss! 🙂 this recipe is one of my staples, so thank you!

  • TeresaO'Donnell
    March 15, 2010

    Thanks for informing the public about the value of a tradition, albeit Irish soda bread! I’m introducing a group of Phillipinos to traditional Irish fare this St. Padraigs day. Brown soda bread with a wee bit of preserves and a cup of tea.Should be fun!!!

  • shaffy
    March 17, 2011

    i’ve tried making it “as-is” – traditionally. but in my household, it disappears faster if i throw in some parmesan, cheddar cheeses and some sun-dried tomatoes. we use it to mop up everything from potato soup, to clam chowder, to ratatouille, and of course, lamb stew. simply simple. simply marvelous.

  • natalie
    March 17, 2011

    thank you! i found a whole other website ranting on and on about how most irish soda bread isn’t traditional, but they did not offer a recipe for traditional style… i was thinking of just guessing but i’m glad i found something to follow!

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