Every St. Patrick’s Day, many people reach for a traditional Irish Soda Bread as part of their meal. I used to buy Irish soda bread this time of the year at my favorite natural food store till I finally made it myself and realized how easy it was to make. Irish Soda Bread pairs well with steaks, corned beef, and other tasty dishes. Discover why Irish Soda Bread with raisins is the perfect St. Patrick’s Day treat. Even if you're not a great baker, it's hard to mess up this quick bread. With the right ingredients, time, and technique, anyone can make delicious Irish Soda Bread with raisins.
Origins of Irish Soda Bread
As with any ethnic recipes, I always like learning about the history of traditional recipes. From my research, it seems like there are mixed versions of the origin of Irish soda bread. Some articles say that Native Americans were the first to create Irish soda bread, but I've also read that It was actually created in U.K. in the early 1800s. I'm honestly not sure which version to believe. One thing I did read that coincided was that the Irish adopted soda bread due to financial hardship. This was an inexpensive bread to make with accessible ingredients like "soft" wheat flour, soured milk and sodium bicarbonate, i.e. baking soda.
The Irish soda bread we know in the United States today though is nothing like Irish soda bread of Ireland. In Ireland, some Irish make a brown soda bread with whole wheat flour that is actually called "farl." It's cut into quarters and cooked in a cast iron pan. All versions of soda bread contain baking soda, hence "soda" in the name. The baking soda in conjunction with some form of "soured milk" like buttermilk acts as a leavening agent.
One piece of history I found to be written about over and over is in regards to a cross being sliced across the top of the loaf. According to Irish superstition, if you score the top of the dough with a sharp knife in the shape of a deep cross, it wards off evil spirits, some Irish call them fairies. If you make a deep cut in the dough, and open it up a bit, it allows more of those spirits to escape.
Adding Raisins to Soda Bread
Raisins are not a traditional ingredient of Irish soda bread, but it is in the Americanized version, such as this one. Adding raisins to this version of Irish soda bread adds a touch of sweetness that we've become accustomed to in the country. Some people also like to add dried currants but sometimes they're a little bit harder to come by.
How to Make Irish Soda Bread
This is a very easy non-yeast bread you can make in less than an hour. It will quickly become a family favorite! This whole recipe can be made in your stand mixer, using the paddle attachment and a clean spot on the counter.
Start by adding all of your dry ingredients to the mixer's bowl. Then add the cold butter and mix until it's all well incorporated. In a separate bowl or large measuring cup add your buttermilk, eggs and zest and whisk with a fork. Mix until there are no more dry spots and it's quite sticky.
No Knead, Round & Bake
Transfer the sticky dough to a well floured counter and don't knead it, but gather the dough and roll it till it stops sticking. There should be enough flour on your counter, but if not, just sprinkle a little on. Then place it onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet, dutch oven, cast iron skillet or medium baking dish, shaped into a semi-flat ball. Use a sharp knife to make a large X on the top. Bake it in a pre-heated oven at 375F for 40-45 minutes. Check it with a toothpick for doneness and it also should sound hollow if you knock on the bread. Let the bread cool on a wire rack. If you want to enjoy it while it's still warm, use a serrated knife after 10-15 minutes and cut yourself a nice warm slice and add a little butter. It's heaven in your mouth!
Variations for Irish Soda Bread
This recipe makes a tender white soda bread with a slight sweetness, but you can exclude the raisins if you like. It just won't be the same fabulous bread that makes this great recipe stand out. Dried currants are also an option, as are caraway seeds, but not everyone likes the seeds. The orange zest is optional, but it's an addition that I think is quite nice.
Irish Soda Bread Ingredients
- Flour- I use all-purpose unbleached flour
- Baking Soda- sodium bicarbonate
- sugar- standard granulated sugar
- kosher salt- I like to use coarse kosher or sea salt.
- buttermilk- If you do not have buttermilk, you can make your own buttermilk with regular dairy milk (whole preferably) and lemon juice. Add 1 ½ Tablespoons of lemon juice to a 2-cup measuring cup. Add enough milk just up to the 1 ½ cup line and let it sit for 15 minutes and voila, you have your buttermilk alternative ready to use.
- Egg- just 1 whole egg.
- Raisins- I like to use plump dark raisins without added sugar for this recipe, but any kind of preferred raisins are fine. Or if you prefer dried currants, you can use those as well.
- orange zest- this is not traditional and can be optional, but I just think it's a nice added touch.