Even though we associate Irish Soda Bread with the celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day, this simple peasant bread was created long after Saint Patrick himself roamed the earth, and out of necessity in order to make use of inexpensive ingredients like flour and sour milk. It was first baked up in Irish kitchens in the late 1830s, when baking soda was introduced to the United Kingdom as a bread leavening agent.
Interestingly, the Irish weren’t the first people to bake with “soda.” In fact, early Native Americans used pearl ash to leaven their bread.
Irish Soda Bread
This is an “Americanized” version of the traditional soda bread recipe which didn’t contain any add-ins. You can certainly make the recipe as authentic as you’d like. It’s guaranteed to be delicious. Serve it warm, slathered with butter, toasted for breakfast— it’s also the perfect addition to your traditional St. Patrick’s Day menu!
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins or currants (optional)
1 tablespoon caraway seeds (optional)
2 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 egg yolk for brushing the top (optional – see variation, below).
Preheat oven to 325° F. In a large bowl, combine flour, caraway seeds, soda, and salt; add raisins or currants. Stir in buttermilk until dough forms. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough until smooth, about two minutes. Shape into round loaf. Place dough on an ungreased baking sheet. With a serrated knife, cut a 1/2” X into the top.
Lightly beat egg yolk and brush over the dough. Bake 50 to 55 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Transfer from pan to rack and let cool. Serve warm with Corned Beef and Cabbage.
Variation: You can also brush the top of your Irish soda bread with cream or milk and add sanding sugar.