1 hour 10 minutes
Irish soda bread may be most popular around St. Patrick’s Day—at least in the U.S.—but it’s just as delicious every other day of the year. Enriched with butter and tangy buttermilk, it bakes up with a burnished crust and fluffy crumb, like a cross between a conventional loaf of bread and a tender scone.
Unlike proofed breads, which rely on the slow and sometimes finicky activity of yeast for leavening, soda bread and other popular quick breads lean on baking soda (called bread soda in Ireland) for their height and aerated crumb. In other words, the dough can be baked immediately after it’s mixed, rather than hours or even days later. That offer of near-instant gratification makes a great Irish soda bread recipe a prized commodity. Once you taste this rendition, which is ever-so-faintly sweetened and studded with plump raisins, you’ll be set for life.
The success of this recipe relies on a few key tips. First, make sure to fully whisk—or even better, sift—your dry ingredients together. If the baking soda clumps, it won’t be able to do its job as well, and it’ll taste pretty unpleasant when you encounter it in a bite of bread. Second, fight any instinct you might have to knead this dough, which could make the bread tough. Finally, spread baked slices with plenty of Irish butter and enjoy with a nice cup of tea.
Editor's note: This recipe was originally published in the February 2005 issue of ‘Bon Appétit’ and first appeared on Epicurious in January 2005.
Makes 1 loaf
Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray 8-inch-diameter cake pan or cast-iron skillet with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, 4 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in large bowl to blend. Add butter. Using fingertips, rub in until coarse meal forms. Make well in center of flour mixture. Add buttermilk. Gradually stir dry ingredients into milk to blend. Mix in raisins.
Using floured hands, shape dough into ball. Transfer to prepared pan and flatten slightly (dough will not come to edges of pan). Sprinkle dough with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.
Bake bread until golden brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool bread in pan 10 minutes. Transfer to rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
The Irish tend not to add raisins to their everyday brown soda bread (made with whole-wheat flour) or their white soda bread. The inclusion caraway seeds or raisins, as in this Irish soda bread recipe, is more a mark of Irish-American versions. Some recipes add the raisins to the flour mixture, but we recommend following along with the recipe and adding them after the buttermilk’s incorporated (otherwise the the nooks and crannies in the raisins hold little pockets of flour that seem to elude the buttermilk).
If desired, use a sharp knife to score the top of the dough with a cross shape (about ½-inch deep) after sprinkling with sugar.
Variations: Swap the raisins for currants or whisk 2 teaspoons lemon zest or orange zest into the dry ingredients.
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Excellent! All family, friends and neighbors LOVED IT!!!
This was really easy, fast, and good for breakfast for a few days afterwards due to being moist. I mixed it up and had in the oven in under 10 minutes. It has a nice crumb and wasn’t overly sweet. It was a loose dough, but not that hard to deal with. I made two changes: I didn’t have raisins so used dried cranberries, and I baked it in a dutch oven to get a nice crust on convection bake for ~30 minutes.
Took it out almost 10 minutes early and it was done perfectly.
May not be your everyday authenticity austere Irish Soda Bread but it works and is delicious and there’s never a crumb leftover. If you are “tsked” and brought to task just tell them “it’s the one made for special occasions.”
I come from an Irish family, and I have tried and made a lot of Irish soda bread over the years. Many were dry, or just ehh. I found this recipe a few years back and it is wonderful. My family looks forward to it! I started making 2 loaves a year, once for my house and one for my Dad, who is 100% Irish and has a March birthday. It is so well liked that last year I made 6! My son likes is warmed in the microwave for 5 seconds with a little bit of butter.
Mount Laurel, NJ
I don't understand any bad reviews here. I'm Irish born as are all my family and almost all of them have told me that it's the best soda bread they've ever had here in the states.
I am so glad I found this recipe again! I used it last summer and made the most delicious irish soda bread anyone in my family has ever had! I never saved the recipe and was searching a bit and finally found it again! I can not wait to make this again this week, its truly the most perfect recipe! Thank you for creating it!!!
Long Island, NY
This recipe is great! We love Irish soda bread and - admittedly - this recipe has a slight sweetness to it that is probably more American than traditionally Irish, it is not overwhelmingly sweet at all. Cut back on the sugar if it really bothers you. Buttermilk gives it moisture, as do the raisins. To the comments that you cannot "form a ball" with only two cups of flour, that is true, but you really aren't supposed to make a "ball". I rolled mine out of the bowl with floured hands and it made more of a mound when it landed in my cake pan, which is what soda bread looks like - a mound. Do not expect the dough to look like a yeast bread that you knead and shape.
This is yummy, authentic or not! I substituted 1/3 of the flour for whole wheat flour and used raw sugar on top, but otherwise made as stated. It was a tiny bit sweeter than traditional Irish soda breads, but I didn't think it was that sweet overall; I ate it with Irish cheddar, and it's tasty. Used the KitchenAid with the regular mixing paddle and it worked great. The dough is sticky, as people note, but easy to work with using floured hands as directed. Based on the final product, I wouldn't add more flour.
I’ve been using this same recipe since 2012. Always a huge hit. I do add more flour as I form the dough and that’s it! So simple to make.
North Las Vegas, NV
I could tell something was off in it calling for baking powder. Also, hard to trust recipes that don't give weights of flour - given ratios, assumed the heaviest, scoop and swipe measure for the 2 cups. It worked as a dough, but way too crumbly. No way to slice. Only possible to cut a wedge. Like a giant, not very tasty scone.
I don't understand why this recipe is so highly touted. 2 cups of flour produced a mushy batter that was impossible to 'form into a ball" I added an extra cup of flour and it was still too loose. Very disappointed! Epicurious is usually reliable.
My 80 year old Irish/Scottish mother in-law says this is the best soda bread she has had since her grandmother made it for her.. I have been making it for 4 years now and never have leftovers..
Delicious! I made this recipe on March 17, 2020, while self-isolating during the coronavirus crisis. My flour was past its 2018 expiration date, as were my baking soda and baking powder. My "buttermilk" was half sour cream and half tap water. The only ingredients I had recently purchased were the raisins and butter. The soda bread was so good I am making another loaf for my daughter and son-in-law. I will leave it in a bag on their porch and ring the doorbell. If you have bored children at home, baking is a great way to engage them and to practice reading directions and working with fractions. Stay safe until this pandemic runs its course.
I prefer to add the raisins before the buttermilk, makes it easier to spread them.