For St. Patrick’s Day we think about Irish foods like corned beef and Colcannon. How about Irish soda bread? It’s one of the simplest breads to make and the origin is just as simple. Historically the Irish made this dietary staple from the basics of flour, baking soda (instead of yeast), buttermilk (soured milk) and salt. It’s sometimes flavored with caraway seeds but the basic plain recipe dates to the 1840’s when baking soda—or bicarbonate of soda—was first introduced.
As for raisins, well, we like raisins and my mother always made soda bread with raisins! My Irish friend Mary, whose basic recipe I changed up with raisins and orange zest, said she’d never put raisins in her soda bread before and loved my version spread with Kerrygold Irish butter. I agree! Soda bread has no added fat, so maybe splurge a little with an extra rich Irish butter. Or try it topped with marmalade, which is nearly as simple to make as soda bread following my basic recipe for marmalade. Use any type of citrus. It’s a nice way to stow away a bumper crop of oranges or lemons.
The recipe is a lifesaver when you run out of bread because it can be stirred and baked in about an hour. No kneading or patience required for a toasty-warm homemade loaf and oh-so-good home-baked aroma. Expect a somewhat dense crumb, more like a scone than yeast bread.
So with the luck of the Irish, you can have a loaf of Irish Soda Bread in the oven and on the table at a moment’s notice!
Irish Soda Bread with Raisins and Orange
Makes one loaf, about 1-1/2 pounds
4 cups white whole wheat flour* or blend of all-purpose and whole wheat flour
1 cup Sun-Maid Natural or Golden Raisins
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
Grated zest of one orange
2 cups buttermilk*
Preheat oven to 375°F.
In a large bowl, combine flour, raisins, remaining dry ingredients and orange zest. Stir and make a well in the center.
Pour buttermilk into the well. Stir with a wooden spoon just until the wet and dry ingredients come together. The less mixing the better.
Form the dough into a mound with floured hands. Place on a baking sheet and flatten to about 2-1/2 inches in height. For shorter bake time, divide dough in half to make two smaller loaves. Slash a cross about ½-inch deep across the top.
Bake until deep golden brown and a pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes or about 25 minutes for two small loaves. Cover with foil the last 5-10 minutes if needed to prevent over browning or raisins from burning. Cool on a wire rack. Serve slightly warm or room temperature. Wrap well and keep at room temperature 2-3 days, or longer refrigerated. Toast slices if refrigerated.
Use all-purpose white flour if you like a less coarse bread, or a combination of white and whole wheat. I like white whole wheat flour which is milled from a hard white wheat berry and retains the bran and the germ, like whole wheat flour but less coarse. It isn’t completely white, and produces a slightly sweet flavor with 4 grams of fiber per ¼ cup just like whole wheat flour, vs less than 1 gram in white flour. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, then level with a knife, which is the standard for measuring flour because if scooped it could be up to ¼ cup more per cup. With 4 cups flour total it can make a difference.
In place of buttermilk, use regular milk and replace 2 tablespoons milk with 2 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice. Dough may be a little sticky and need 3-4 tablespoons more flour.
Step by Step