This recipe for Irish Soda Bread is just one of the many forms taken by this simple quick bread seen across Ireland. In Ulster, the wholemeal (or whole-wheat) form is sweetened and called Wheaten Bread.
Soda Bread takes its name from the ingredient used as a leavening agent, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate); used in combination with buttermilk in the dough, the chemical reaction creates bubbles of carbon dioxide which creates the rise. So, there is no fussy yeast rising for this bread (hence “quick bread”).
The flour used for making soda bread in Ireland is soft wheat flour. You can readily find soft wheat flours in the South; White Lily and Martha White brands are both soft wheat flours. Cake or pastry flours are also soft wheat flour, so if you can find Swans Down brand, it is also a soft wheat flour.
I used a combination of White Lily whole-wheat flour and White Lily self-rising flour and the traditional buttermilk; I also included the optional ingredient additions of sugar (since I wanted to make the “Wheaten Bread” version), currants and an egg (butter and nuts are other common additions).
Since this is a quick bread, dry ingredients are mixed with wet ingredients and stirred with a wooden spoon or spatula to form the dough. A sprinkle of flour once the round loaf is formed give it a rustic look. The X cut in the top of a round loaf isn’t just for looks. Since this is a dense bread, the X creates a split in the top of the loaf which helps the center of the bread bake uniformly.
My recipe made one round loaf which I baked on a pizza stone, but you could use two standard-size (1 pound) loaf pans (greased and floured) if you prefer.
This bread is delicious, and is a typical addition to St. Patrick’s Day celebration meals here in the United States. Include this recipe in your menu plan; you won’t regret it!
- 1¼ cups wholemeal (whole-wheat) flour (soft wheat flour being preferable)*
- 2 cups self-rising flour (soft wheat flour being preferable)*
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup currants mixed with 1 teaspoon flour
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Combine the flours, baking soda, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl.
- In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk and egg, beating just to combine.
- Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the buttermilk mixture.
- Using a wooden spoon, or spatula, stir to combine.
- In a small bowl, toss the currents with the teaspoon of flour to coat.
- Add to the bread dough mixture and stir to combine (add a little extra flour if the dough is too wet and sticky).
- As you stir the mixture will come together to form a dough ball. Shape into a round and place on a piece of parchment, if baking one round loaf on a stone (without a stone, place parchment on a baking sheet, or separate into two ovals and place in greased and floured one pound loaf pans).
- Sprinkle a bit of flour on the loaf.
- For one round loaf, using a serrated knife, cut an X in the top of the loaf (about ¼ inch deep).
- Place into the preheated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes.
- Remove from oven (if baked in a pan, turn out of pan) and cool on a wire rack before slicing.