“You nailed it!” That was the response from my husband as he taste tested my latest version of Irish Soda Bread. I thought so too. Finally! After weeks of testing recipes, I had come up with an Irish Soda Bread that is without a doubt the best I had ever tasted. Sweet but not too sweet, rustic but with a delicate moist crumb and perfectly heavenly when eaten warm from the oven.
The quick back story is that about 3 weeks ago I thought it would be fun to post a recipe for Irish Soda Bread since Saint Patrick’s Day was coming up. The problem was that I couldn’t find my mother’s old recipe and would have to come up with a new one. How hard could it be? I diligently started researching the history of Irish Soda Bread on the internet and poured over my cookbooks testing various recipes. Discouragingly, I couldn’t find one that was quite right. Too dry, too doughy, too sweet or not enough flavor was the verdict loaf after loaf.
On the verge of giving up, I decided to try one last time. I took what I liked from my top 3 recipes and kind of merged them together, tweaked things a bit, baked it in the oven and there is was; Irish Soda Bread as I had envisioned it to be. After an awkward happy dance, we celebrated by eating the entire loaf that very afternoon.
I do want to be completely upfront with you. This recipe falls into the category of the American version of Irish Soda Bread. And I am OK with that. Why? Well, why not? I am proudly of Irish heritage and grew up having Irish Soda Bread every March to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. This version is more in line with the one I grew up with and it’s absolutely delicious.
I mention this because I found in doing my research that Irish Soda Bread is VERY controversial. People get their knickers in a knot because the American version has things like currants, caraway seeds and added sugar to the dough. Where as the classic version is plainer and more like bread you would enjoy with a hearty soup at dinnertime.
I actually did attempt to make the “Irish” Irish Soda Bread version but it always fell short. I think a trip to Ireland (purely for research purposes) may be necessary to find out what this classic bread is truly supposed to taste like and find out its secrets from authentic Irish bakers. How awesome would that be? Bakery hopping along the Irish countryside. Maybe someday…..
One last thing. Irish Soda bread tastes best the day you make it. The dough comes together really quickly, so bake a loaf on a Sunday morning and enjoy it the rest of the day at your leisure, whilst day dreaming of a trip to the Emerald Isle.
Irish Soda BreadPrint Recipe
Irish Soda Bread
- 4 cups - all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup - sugar
- 1 teaspoon - baking soda
- 1½ teaspoons - baking powder
- 1 teaspoon - salt
- 5 tablespoons - unsalted butter - cold
- 1 cup - currants
- 1 tablespoon - caraway seeds
- 1½ cups - buttermilk
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons - melted unsalted butter - optional
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease or line a sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and the salt
Cut up the cold butter into small 1/2 inch cubes and toss them with the flour mixture. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter into smaller pieces - about the size of peas. You can also use your fingers to do this.
Mix in the currants and the caraway seeds.
In a measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk and the egg. Add to the flour and gently stir just until the dough comes together. Do not over mix. This will be a wet dough.
Scoop the dough onto a lightly floured countertop and gently knead the dough just until it becomes cohesive, just 3 or 4 times; then pat the dough into a round that is about 6 or 7 inches across. It will be a little sticky and craggy looking. That is fine, this is not supposed to be a smooth dough.
Place the dough onto the prepared sheet pan. With a sharp knife score an X on top, about 1/2 inch deep.
Bake until golden brown and a tooth pick/cake tester comes out clean. About 50 minutes. Every oven is different. Check it at 45 minutes. You do not want to over-bake or the bread will be dry.
If desired brush a little melted butter over the top of the bread. It helps keep the crust softer. Let the bread cool on a cooling rack for 30 minutes before slicing . The cooling period is important for the texture of the bread to be right.
- You can substitute the currants with raisins or cran-raisins if desired.
- Caraway seeds are optional but are traditionally used with "American" Irish bread.
- It is at its best on the day you make it. That said, wrap up the bread in plastic and you will get another day out of it. It will be a little dryer in texture but still really good. Actually it is awesome toasted with a little butter.