As the ever popular St. Patrick’s Day celebration approaches, I have been thinking about Irish Soda Bread as something I would like to enjoy in observance of the day. I have made it before, but somehow misplaced the recipe I used…..hello Google. In my search for a similar recipe I discovered there are countless recipes to choose from. Some have currants, raisins or caraway seeds, some pour buttermilk over the top and some sprinkle sugar on it. There are some with orange peel and juice, butter and even gluten-free versions. But the thing I found interesting was that most of them call themselves “traditional” Irish soda bread. Hmmmmm they can’t all be traditional.
I researched further and discovered that the real traditional recipe consists of only flour, baking soda, buttermilk and salt. According to The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread (there really is one), anything other than the true original recipe is a “teacake”. History says that this bread originated in times of poverty, making the bread a staple without the added frills. Nevertheless, the PISB Society doesn’t look down on those who want to enjoy the fancier versions. In fact they encourage making the embellished bread for our St Patrick’s Day celebrations. They do ask that we “save a spot on the table for [traditional] Irish soda bread to remember how far the Irish have come, from the days when it was the only thing on the table, to today when our tables are filled with good things to eat and thoughts of the Famine years are long forgotten”.
So with celebration in mind I put a few different variations together to make an embellished soda bread to enjoy this year. The bread itself is not sweet so I think the raisins, or currants are a nice addition. Dark and golden raisins were a good mix for me. I love caraway seeds, but you should make sure you like them before adding them. Orange peel was also added to the recipe because it just gives it a nice flavor, and a sprinkling of sugar on top for a little crunch. These ingredients may be omitted and are completely optional. So without forgetting the reason this bread was created, and with gratitude for our abundance, here is my recipe for the bread in honor of this Irish day.
Not Exactly Traditional Irish Soda Bread
- 4 cups flour, plus extra for kneading
- 1 Tbsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. salt
- 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces
- 1 tsp caraway seeds
- 1 cup raisins or currants
- 2 tsp. orange zest
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1-1/2 cups buttermilk
- sugar for topping
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If you have a baking stone, preheat it also.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut up butter and add to flour mixture. Blend butter with mixer for 2-3 minutes until completely incorporated. Using a paddle or dough hooks is helpful. Mixture will now resemble coarse meal. Add the caraway seeds, honey, zest, currants if desired and finally the buttermilk and mix until just combined. Do not over-mix.
Dough may seem sticky, but that’s okay. Turn mixture onto a floured board and knead, adding flour until it becomes a bit firmer. Form a round loaf and make a cross-hatch design (barely the skin of the dough) on top of the loaf and sprinkle with a bit of sugar. Put loaf on baking sheet or stone in oven. Bake bread for 45 minutes, until set and loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Let the bread cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
This rustic bread is good anytime with soup or stew, but be sure and try it with your St. Patrick’s Day fare!
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