I had never heard of Irish soda bread until just a few years ago. You see, I have this friend, who is an amazing cook and baker. She’s really good about transforming random things in her kitchen into a really good meal or using leftovers to make something completely different, which turns out to be completely delicious. It’s amazing and I’m downright jealous.
She was the person that introduced me to Irish soda bread, which was something her mom used to make. Like me, my friend is an LA transplant, so when you get a craving for something your mom used to make, you have to do it yourself. This involves calling home, jotting down the recipe that is probably known by heart and then venturing out to the store to get ingredients and any mandatory tools to get the job down.
In this case, we had to venture out to get a cast-iron skillet. I remember going to the store with her and trying to decide which size would best fit a loaf of bread. Do you go big or small? I think we ended up somewhere in the middle.
I expected this bread to be airy with a strong yeast flavor, but to my surprise it was dense, very dense and had a light sweetness with plump raisins sprinkled throughout. There are many variations to this recipe, and it seems like everyone has their favorite. Some have caraway seeds and some have raisins, others have both or neither. There are essential ingredients in a traditional Irish soda bread and those are flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk.
The acid in the buttermilk reacts with the baking soda to provide the bread’s leavening. This is the definition of a quick bread which is easy to make and very hard to mess up. This recipe is a little fancier than the traditional with the addition of sugar, butter, an egg and raisins.
Soda bread does tend to dry out quickly and is best eaten when it is freshly baked and still warm out of the oven. It can be stored for about two days in an airtight container.
I like to top mine with some homemade honey butter – simple but so delicious, a perfect reminder of home.
- 4 to 4½ cups flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup raisins or currants
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1¾ cup buttermilk
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Whisk together 4 cups flour, the sugar, salt and baking soda into a large bowl.
- Using a pastry cutter or a food processor, work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal, then add in the raisins or currants.
- Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, add the beaten egg and buttermilk to the well and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough becomes difficult to stir.
- Dust hands with flour, then gently knead dough in the bowl just long enough to form a ball. Do not over knead.
- Transfer the dough to a large, lightly greased cast-iron skillet (or a baking sheet). Using a serrated knife, score top of the dough about an inch and a half deep in an "X" shape.(This helps the heat get into the center of the dough while it cooks.)
- Transfer to an oven and bake until the bread is golden and the bottom sounds hallow when tapped, about 35-45 minutes. You can also check for doneness by inserting a long, thing skewer into the center. If it comes out clean, it's done.
- Remove the pan from oven and let the bread sit for about 5-10 minutes. Bread is best served when warm.