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Irish Soda Bread

2008 February 9
by taiyyaba

Ameir asked for the Buttermilk Alfredo Pasta again, so I was looking for something to do with the rest of the buttermilk. I had seen this on various blogs and decided to look for it in my Joy of Baking cookbook and….there it was! This is a “Quick Bread,” according to Joy. It’s easy if you’ve never made bread before (like me), but you’d like to start experimenting. This bread doesn’t need yeast, because the baking soda (hence the name) and acid in the buttermilk react together to act as a leavening agent. It doesn’t get too puffy, but it sure is crusty-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside delicious. It would go well paired with a stew, but it’s also very nice on a Saturday morning, hot from the oven and slathered with butter with a cup of tea alongside. Simply Recipes says that this bread dries quickly, so you should eat it in a day or two (ours was gone very quickly, but if you do get to this point, make bread pudding!) Ameir’s mom is part Irish, so I felt like I was doing some credit to his heritage by making this!

Note on flavoring: I made this with raisins, but without caraway seeds as the recipe recommends. If you’re going to make it sweet like this, add more sugar and some other flavoring to the dough (I added cinnamon inside and also sprinkled the top with cinnamon sugar.) If you’re going to make it savory, skip the raisins and add herbs (next time, I’m going to try it with rosemary in the batter and maybe cracked black pepper on top).

From Joy of Baking, Vol. 2, by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker. (c. 1974, Signet).

Quick Irish Soda Bread

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbs. sugar
6 tbs. butter, chilled and cut into pieces
2/3 cup buttermilk or more, as needed
1 cup raisins (optional)

1. Sift the flour (again) with the baking soda, salt, sugar, and any other powdered spices/flavorings you want (I used a tablespoon of cinnamon; add more sugar if you’re making it sweet.) Soak the raisins in some juice or water while you’re working.

2. Using a food processor, two knives, or, my favorite, your hands, cut the cold butter into the flour until the mix looks course and crumby. It is very important that the butter is cold – my bread was too crumbly, and I think it is because the butter was not cold enough (or it could be because I ate it literally straight out of the oven).

3. Stir the raisins (or any other dried fruit, fresh or dried herbs, spices) into the flour. If the raisins are coated with flour, it will keep them from sinking to the bottom.

4. Gradually pour in the buttermilk and mix it in. The dough should not be dry and crumbly, so pour in a little bit more if it needs it (I needed to put in probably a quarter cup more).

5. Knead the dough a little bit to shape it into a ball, then put it onto a greased baking sheet, loaf pan, or cast iron skillet.

6. Cut a cross over the top of it, pretty strongly but obviously not too far down. Brush it with milk. (at this point I also sprinkled cinnamon sugar on top).

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Your kitchen will start smelling beautiful. When it’s done, a skewer inserted in the middle should come out clean – and if you tap on the bottom of the bread, it should sound hollow. If the bread gets too brown and isn’t done yet, loosely cover it with some aluminum foil and let it keep baking until done.

Cut into slices and toast it if you want, then slather with butter and devour. If it’s savory, dunk it into the juices of a roast or some stew. Devour.

Sorry I couldn’t take a picture of the sliced bread. It kind of…got devoured.

New note – I just tried this with rosemary over the weekend. I put some fresh chopped rosemary into the dough and also experimented with getting it to a consistency that allowed me to knead it a little bit more. With some rough cracked black pepper on top before baking, it turned out great! Also, I think the problem with the crumbly-ness is that I usually can’t wait and try to cut it as soon as it gets out of the oven. In the few times I’ve made this after writing this recipe, waiting for it to cool down a little bit usually significantly reduces the crumbly-ness upon cutting.

5 Responses leave one →
  1. Raana A Qureshi permalink
    February 12, 2008

    baitay jaani are you making this for us too.looks very appetizing and beautiful.

  2. February 13, 2008


  3. February 20, 2008

    me too! me too!
    actually i’ll just try it myself 🙂 yay! always wanted to try making this. i’m not a big raisin fan, but i do like the idea of this as a sweet bread. we’ll see…

  4. Fatima Khalifa permalink
    February 26, 2008

    Assalamu alaikum. I’m Ibraheem’s sister, I’m not sure if you know about me… Anyway, he told me about this awesome soda bread that you made so I had to try it. I made it with whole wheat and currants; it came out really nice. Thanks for the recipe. Also, I absolutely love your blog. My brother has sent me links to it once or twice, and I am always impressed by your keen thoughts and writing style. I just thought I’d drop you a few lines. 🙂 Take care.

  5. February 28, 2008

    Fatimah, Wa alaikum assalam,
    Thanks for your kind words! I’m glad you enjoy the blog. Also, it’s excellent that you were able to make this with whole wheat. I’m trying to transition into that realm as well – we could all use a little more health! The currants sound great too; I really do think any dried fruit could work. Jazakallah Khair.

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