Irish Soda Bread Recipe
Happy St. Patrick’s Day and Good Eating!
Yes, it’s that time of year again, when we celebrate being Irish, even when we aren’t! But the Irish believe everyone is a “wee bit Irish,” on St. Patrick’s Day, so we can all enjoy the fun! One of the things we enjoy during this season and maybe other times of the year, is food with that Irish twist. On this page I’ve given you an Irish Soda Bread Recipe I think you’ll like.
A More Recent History Than You Think
Contrary to popular belief, Irish Soda Bread was not a part of ancient Ireland’s diet. The bread didn’t originate until after sodium bicarbonate, commonly known as baking soda, was first used as a leavening for bread in the 1840s. Until that time bicarbonate of soda was only used as a cleaning and purifying element.
Why Does It Have A Cross Cut Into It?
Irish Soda Bread usually has a cross cut into the top. There are a number of legends about this particular decoration: some say it’s to ward off the Devil, others say it’s a symbol of the cross during the Christian holidays, others say it’s a more practical reason, being that it’s already cut into four pieces. Whatever the reason, it’s still done that way to this day.
Adding Raisins or Currants
Below I give you a recipe for Irish Soda Bread with raisins or currants. By the way, putting butter, egg, sugar and raisins or currants into this recipe is purely an American invention. Irish Soda Bread was begun as a bread for poor people who couldn’t afford the finer types of bread offered to the wealthier populace. The basic ingredients for soda bread are flour, baking soda, buttermilk and salt. The acidic quality of the buttermilk interacts with the baking soda and causes the bread to rise, without using yeast. Bread making was a daily activity in most households, since there was no place to buy bread as we do now.
My Recipe For Irish Soda Bread
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for raisins or currants
4 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 & 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
4 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
1 & 3/4 cups cold buttermilk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 cup raisins or currants if desired
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is mixed into the flour.
With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk and egg together in a small bowl. With the mixer running at low speed, gradually add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture.
Combine the raisins or currants with 1 Tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough. It will be very wet.
Dump the dough onto a well floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. Do not overwork. Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an “X” into the top of the bread with a serrated knife.
Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. When you tap the loaf it should have a hollow sound.
Cool on a baking rack, serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 1 loaf.
Here’s a video with the basic instructions if you’d rather follow visual instructions.
Mixers of good quality can’t be beat, especially when making dough for bread or cookies. First of all, it must have a good, strong motor. If it doesn’t it will bind up in the dough and burn out quickly. Here are a few suggestions of good mixers.
Cooling racks are an absolute must for baking. The best I’ve found are the wire racks which allow cool air to circulate around the baked product. Here are a few of those, available on this page from Amazon.
One important thing to keep in mind whenever you bake Irish Soda Bread is the quality of the baking powder. If it is not fresh, your bread will not sufficiently rise. Always, always, check the date on your baking powder and toss it out if it’s expired. You will not get the quality of bread you’re looking for if you use it.
Dried currants are delicious in Irish Soda Bread. I don’t always use them, sometimes I make it plain, but from time to time, I drop in some dried currants and they add a special something to the bread. However this IS mostly an American custom. I believe the Irish make it plain.