Irish Soda Bread

March 15, 2012

irish soda bread

Since I’m not huge when it comes to celebrating Holidays I try to at least do some celebrating in the kitchen. I won’t decorate my house for Easter and I don’t dress in green on St. Patricks Day. My Husband and I barely recognize Valentine’s Day. Other than Thanksgiving and Christmas we really don’t concern ourselves on Holidays. I do enjoy making traditional Holiday fare though, so I usually bust out some sort of treat around the given season. With St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday I thought I would make up a few things in honor of the great Irish Holiday!

I started making Irish Soda Bread for St. Patrick’s Day about 4 years ago, back in college, when I first started cooking/baking. It was a giant round loaf made in a cast iron skillet. I was living with my Grandma at the time and somehow we managed to tackled quite a bit of that between the two of us. Nowadays I probably make it more for the memory with my Grandma then for St. Patrick’s Day itself.

irish soda bread

Irish Soda Bread is a traditional Irish bread that consists of flour, baking soda, buttermilk, and usually salt. It’s a very simple, plain bread that was often made in replacement of yeasted breads in part for it inexpensive ingredients. Americans have taken that bread and added non-traditional elements such as butter, eggs, sugar, and raisins. What Americans generally consider Irish Soda Bread is usually non-authentic and more of a cake. However, it is my favorite way of eating it : ) So non-authentic or not… it’s much better than the plain version!

If you’ve never had soda bread before, it’s kind of like a giant scone… Seriously. You cut the butter into the flour, then add the buttermilk and egg. Pretty much a scone, right?! A few other notes about soda bread- the signature “X” in the top of the loaf is absolutely necessary! It helps distribute the heat evenly while baking so that the center bakes through completely. So if you’re bread doesn’t cook through it could be because you didn’t score it deep enough. Also, if you decide to bake it on a cast iron skillet, it may take longer and/or brown faster since cast iron takes longer to heat up then a baking sheet. Just keep these things in mind ; )

irish soda bread

Irish Soda Bread
  • 4 cups flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 large egg
  • 1¾ cups buttermilk
  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Whisk together 4 cups of flour, the sugar, salt, and baking soda into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Using your (clean) fingers (or two knives or a pastry cutter), work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal, then add in the raisins.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and egg. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the wet mixture. Mix until dough is just combined. Gently knead dough on dusted counter top just long enough to form a ball. If the dough is too sticky to work with, add in a little more flour. Do NOT over-knead!
  4. Transfer dough to a large, lightly greased cast-iron skillet or a baking sheet. Using a serrated knife, score top of dough about an inch and a half deep in an "X" shape. Bake until bread is golden, about 35-45 minutes. Check for doneness also by inserting a long, thin skewer into the center. If it comes out clean, it's done.
If you like your soda bread less sweet only use 2 Tb sugar. To change things up swap out the raisins for some currants, dried cherries, or any other of your favorite dried fruit!

adapted from Simply Recipes


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

laura @ in widening circles March 17, 2012 at 2:53 am

I had an epic fail yesterday night trying to make Irish soda bread with a different recipe … I should’ve known, the recipe looked wonky but I persevered anyway and ended up throwing the entire thing in the trash.

But, THIS. THIS is delicious and everything I wanted it to be. I used dried cherries instead of currants because that’s what I had on hand. So great. Thank you!


lmachell March 18, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Oh I am SO happy to hear that! I know what you mean about recipes being dud’s sometimes… I’m glad that my soda bread pulled through for you though! : )


Naomi March 19, 2012 at 3:07 pm

I have no buttermilk. What can I use as a substitute?


lmachell March 19, 2012 at 7:45 pm

In a liquid measuring cup, place 1 Tb white vinegar then add enough whole milk to equal 1 cup. Let it sit for about 5 minute and you’ll have buttermilk : ) In this case you need quite a bit so I would do 2 Tb vinegar then enough milk to equal 2 cups.


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