Breads & Rolls

Irish Soda Bread

Irish soda bread is an easy quick bread that has a soft, dense interior with a perfect crusty exterior. It pairs well with a nice hearty meal or as a side to a traditional Irish celebration. If you’re not a raisin lover, keep reading – you can skip them! 

What is Irish soda bread?

Irish soda bread is a traditional bread in Ireland that originated in the 1800s. Because of it’s simple ingredients and methods, it allowed even the poor to make this bread in a cast iron pot over hot coals. Traditionally the bread does not contain sugar, egg, or butter. Raisins (or any dried fruit addition) would have been a luxury. However, I love the addition of all of them. The bread still holds a simple and traditional flavor and texture, with just a little extra depth of flavor. It’s soft and dense in the inside with a wonderful crusty exterior. 

If the thought of making homemade bread scares you, this the bread for you! There’s no yeast in this bread – baking soda is the only leavening agent in it. I mean it when I say it’s fool proof! If you are interested in a bread with yeast I would check out my easy rustic artisan bread recipe.

Do I need a cast iron pan?

I LOVE the effect the cast iron pan gives to this bread. It provides a perfect crust that locks in that amazing texture on the inside. You don’t need one to make a successful, delicious loaf though. You can use a baking sheet, 2 loaf pans, or pie dish. To mimic the steam effect from a cast iron pan or dutch oven, you can place a pan of ice cubes on the bottom oven rack. The steam from the melting ice cubes will mimic the steam oven approach really well! 

How is it made?

Takes one bowl and a few simple ingredients! Simply whisk together dry ingredients (I love using this danish dough whisk), and cut in butter like you would biscuits or pie crust until you have pea sized bits of butter. Then add the egg and milk and fold together on a floured work surface. You don’t want to over work or knead this, just folding it until everything is incorporated. Once the loaf is formed, use a serrated knife to make an ‘x’ in the center of the loaf. This allows the center of the loaf to cook evenly. Plus, historically it was a superstitious symbol to ward off evil.

Check out this easy tutorial on Instagram!

Can I skip the raisins?

Yes, you do not have to put raisins in Irish Soda Bread. You can leave it plain, add dried cranberries, or the nontraditional (but delicious) choice of chocolate chips. If you do use a dried fruit, I recommend soaking them in warm water for about 20 minutes to allow them to absorb the water and plump up. This will not only make the dried fruit taste better in the bread, but it’ll allow the dough to remain the same and bake better. If you don’t soak fruit, the fruit will want to absorb the moisture that’s in the dough, which means you are left with bread that’s more dry since some of the moisture was stolen from the fruit! 

What do I pair it with?

More St. Patrick's Day bakes you'll love...

Irish Soda Bread

Lori Vaughn
Irish soda bread is an easy quick bread that has a soft, dense interior with a perfect crusty exterior. It pairs well with a nice hearty meal or as a side to a traditional Irish celebration. Keep or skip the raisins - your choice!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Total Time 1 hr
Servings 1 loaf

Ingredients
  

  • 4 ½ cups (540g) all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp (38g) sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, cold
  • 1 ¾ (420ml) cup buttermilk*
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup (150g) raisins or currants (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 400°F. For baking you have a few options - baking sheet, pie dish, 2 loaf pans, or my favorite - a cast iron pan (the traditional choice!). If using a cast iron pan, stick it in the oven while the oven preheats.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and sugar.
  • Cut your butter into small chunks and add it to the flour mixture. Using a pastry cutter or fork, break up the butter into the flour to leave behind pea sized pieces of butter through out the flour. Pour in the optional raisins and gently mix until it's spread throughout.
  • In a liquid measuring cup, measure out your buttermilk and whisk in the egg. Add this mixture to your bowl of flour. Gently fold it all together until it's mostly incorporated. Then transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and gently fold in the rest.
  • You want to be careful at this point not to overwork the dough. This isn't dough we knead. We just want to make sure all of the flour is evenly incorporated. Round out the dough into a ball and transfer to your cast iron pan (hot in the oven at this point), or other baking pan of choice.
  • Using a serrated knife, cut an 'X' in the center of the dough, allowing the center to bake evenly. If you're going for a sweeter approach, you can add a sprinkle of coarse sugar on top prior to putting it in the oven. (Not traditional, but delicious!)
  • Place in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes, until bread is golden brown and center appears to be baked through. Remove from oven and let it cool for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
  • You can slice it into straight pieces like you see in the pictures or you can cut it up into triangles like a pie or pizza.
    I love serving this warm lathered with butter or jam. Makes a nice snack or served with a traditional hearty Irish meal such as a stew or meat and potatoes. Stays fresh in an airtight bag or container for a few days at room temperature (if it lasts that long!). Enjoy!

Notes

*BUTTERMILK SUBSTITUTE: My favorite preference is using real fresh buttermilk. It helps with the texture and rise of the bread. It's carried at most grocery stores and even Walmart. In a pinch though you can use dried buttermilk or a milk+lemon mixture.
If using dried buttermilk, follow the instructions on the package for the amount of water to powder ratio. Add the powder with the flour and the water when the instructions say whisk together the buttermilk and egg. 
For a milk+lemon mixture, add 1 TB lemon juice or vinegar to a glass measuring cup. Then add milk until you reach 1 3/4 cup. Use the fattiest milk you have (whole or 2% is best). 
 
 
5 1 vote
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
1 Comment
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jamie
Jamie
3 months ago

5 stars
This bread was so easy to make! I really enjoyed it warm with butter. It was really nice not to have to plan ahead much with the no rise time. Definitely will be making again even when it’s not St Patrick’s Day!