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Irish Soda Bread

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Serves 8

Yields 1 large loaf

Soda bread has been an Irish household staple since baking soda became commercially available in the early 19th century. It uses just four ingredients that most people kept on hand: flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk (raisins and caraway seeds are an American addition). A real soda bread is a simple loaf with a beautifully browned, craggy crust and a nice chew, best eaten liberally smeared with salty Irish butter.

  • 1 lb. (3-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more as needed
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 cups buttermilk

Position a rack in the center of the oven and cook’s tip heat the oven to 450°F. Lightly flour a large rimmed baking sheet.

Sift all of the dry ingredients into a large, wide mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in 1-1/2 cups of the buttermilk. Stir with one hand, fingers apart, moving in circles to incorporate the buttermilk into the dry ingredients. If necessary, add more buttermilk 1 Tbs. at a time until the dough just barely comes together. (The absorption rate varies depending on the brand of flour.) The dough should be soft—don’t overwork it.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and pat into a round about 6-3/4 inches in diameter and 1-1/2 inches high in the center. Invert the round so the floured side is on top. With a thin, sharp knife, score a cross on the dough about 1/4 inch deep and extending fully from one side to the other.

Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 400°F and bake until the bread is browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, another 20 to 30 minutes.

Cool to room temperature on a rack, about 2 hours, before slicing and serving.

Variations

Though it's not traditionally Irish, you can add 3 oz. raisins with the dry ingredients, or experiment with add-ins like freshly chopped herbs, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, caramelized onions, or chocolate chips.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 220; Fat (g): fat g 1; Fat Calories (kcal): 10; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 0; Protein (g): protein g 7; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 0; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 45; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 310; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 0; Fiber (g): fiber g 2;

Photo: Scott Phillips

Easy to make and quite tasty. I don't think it needs more salt. Just slather with some Kerrygold butter. It's delicious! Mine didn't look quite as nice as the photo, but perhaps I should have shaped it a bit more. Will definitely make this again. I liken it to a buttermilk biscuit in terms of taste. Very nice.

I love this bread! This is the first soda bread recipe I ever tried and it will be my only. It's so easy to put together and comes out perfectly everytime. I agree with other reviewers that it needs more salt. I use a full tsp and that makes it perfect. I have also made it with 2 tsp of dried herbs added for additional flavor. I also bake mine on stoneware and it has the most wonderful crust on the bottom. I am not a baker my any means, so I am very excited to have an easy bread recipe that is so tasty.

I thought this was very good bread. With some salted butter, it made me think of chewy shortbread. I don't think I have ever had Irish Soda Bread before, so maybe the negative reviews are due to expectations not being met, not making it right (lean breads are difficult) or cutting into it before it is fully cooled (that will give you a gummy mouthfeel with any lean bread). I also cooked mine on a baking stone instead of a cookie sheet. I will make it again.

Agree with everyone else. Boring and heavy and needed a LOT of butter for flavor! I made 1/4 (by weight) with whole wheat flour but this did not help. I have another Irish Soda Bread recipe (from the Bread Bible) that is so much better I think I will go back to that and not stray again!

Per the other reviews, I upped the salt (~2 tsp.) and added 2 Tbsp sugar. Came out hearty with a very tasty crust.

This was my first attempt at making Irish soda bread and I was happy with the result. A little internet research showed me that, as the author states, authentic soda bread has only flour, soda, salt and buttermilk. It was a breeze to make (and fun for the kids to help) and it looked great, a little more craggy than the picture. It's a nice, simple bread, and you can taste the tang of the soda. We're not talking complex artisan bread here, but it was perfectly delicious with salted butter and some jam.

What a disappointment! I was so excited to try this bread- the picture in the magazine looked wonderful. By outward appearances my bread look good but the taste was incredibly bland. The inside was gummy and while I'm sure that was a result of slight under baking on my part the taste netted this recipe one star.

Very bland, needs more than salted butter to make it better. My only positive comment is that is was moist. Very disappointed. Think I will go back to my tried and true recipe from my Irish Mom.

I know this recipe "from of old", and it needs salt, and perhaps even a little sugar, or it will be bland and uninteresting. A nice variation is to use whole-meal flour -- Irish if you can find/afford it (last year it cost me $7 for a 2-kilo bag). That gives you "Brown Soda Bread", and yes, it still needs more than 1/2 tsp. of salt. But no sugar.

Yeah, it's a little "neutral" in taste, but that's just the way my Irish grandmother made it. I didn't have a problem with gumminess. Great crust!

You're going to need that salty Irish butter, because without it the bread tastes very flat. Interior was gummy. Thought it would be better toasted for breakfast this morning with jam. Still meh. Going back to my previous recipe.

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