I was all set to complicate Irish soda bread by making a yeasted version when I started looking into its history and discovered that the soda — the baking soda — is perhaps the most traditional part of the bread, much more so than butter, sugar, eggs and raisins, in fact, which likely entered the equation when the bread crossed the pond.
Inspired by that article, I made a traditional loaf of soda bread with flour, salt, buttermilk and baking soda, and while it was perfectly edible, I found myself missing the richness of eggs and sugar, the scone-like texture created by the addition of butter…what can I say, I’m American! And so I added a bit of the riches back in, just one egg, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and a couple tablespoons of melted butter, which produces a loaf that still resembles a giant biscuit, but less so.
There are two recipes below, one that calls for 100% all-purpose flour — the horror! — and one that calls for a mix of whole wheat, all-purpose, and wheat germ, which produces a slightly denser but no less delicious, chewy, tangy loaf. Each dough takes about 5 minutes to mix-up and each will be ready to be slathered with butter and marmalade about an hour later.
Have a wonderful weekend, Everyone. Happy baking.
PS: Five More Irish-Inspired Recipes to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day
Love this Argyle Cheese Farmer buttermilk:
This is the soda bread when made with a mix of all-purpose and whole wheat flour as well as wheat germ:
Whole grain soda bread, sliced:
This recipe is inspired by this one from Simply Recipes. I add more salt — I find 2 teaspoons of salt for every 4 cups of flour to be about right. And instead of working 4 tablespoons of butter into the dough as you would for biscuits or scones, I use 2 tablespoons of melted butter. This Irish soda bread still resembles a biscuit but has less of that biscuity/scone feel. If you want to use whole grain flour in your soda bread, use these ingredients, which are inspired by an America’s Test Kitchen recipe, in place of the 4 cups all-purpose flour:2 cups (256 g) all-purpose flour1½ cups (192 g) whole wheat flour½ cup (55 g) wheat germ
- 4 cups (510 g) all-purpose flour, see notes above for making it whole grain
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 egg
- 1¾ cups buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- room temperature butter for greasing
- flour for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda.
- Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, add the egg, and beat with a fork to incorporate slightly. Add the buttermilk followed by the melted butter and stir with a rubber spatula until combined. Mixture will be sticky. Grease a 9- or 10-inch cast iron skillet (or other similarly sized vessel) with softened butter. Set aside.
- Lightly flour your hands and sprinkle a little flour over the sticky dough ball. Use your hands to scrape the dough from the sides of the bowl and to quickly shape the mass into a ball, kneading lightly if necessary. Transfer to prepared skillet. Sprinkle with a teensy bit more flour. Use a sharp knife to make an X across the top of the dough ball. Place in oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until lightly golden and bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from oven, transfer to cooling rack, and let cool for 15 minutes before slicing.