Want to have a fresh-baked loaf of bread on the table in thirty minutes? This Irish soda bread is simple, almost ridiculously quick to make, and versatile. It’s a top-notch weeknight quick bread to serve with soups or stews, and leftovers make great croutons for salads.
The secret behind any good Irish soda bread is buttermilk, which activates the baking soda to allow the bread to rise in a hot oven. To keep a good texture, this bread requires that you mix the ingredients by hand–literally! Unlike yeast breads (like sour dough bread), soda bread will toughen if kneaded, so mix only just enough to blend the dry and wet ingredients. This basic recipe showcases currants and caraway seeds, but the possibilities for this humble bread are endless.
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour*, plus more for dusting
2 cups stone-ground whole wheat flour*
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup currants or raisins
1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds
2 cups buttermilk, plus 2 tablespoons for brushing
2 teaspoons cornmeal
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 450°
In a large bowl, mix together the flours with the salt and baking soda.
Add the currants and caraway seeds.
Make a well in the center and pour in the 2 cups buttermilk all at once.
Using your hands, stir in a full circle starting in the center of the bowl and working toward the outside until all the flour has been incorporated. The dough should be soft but not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together–which should take a matter of seconds, turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Wash and dry your hands, then flour them.
Roll the dough around gently for a second, just enough to tidy it up, then flip it over. Pat the dough into a round loaf, about 1-1/2 inches thick.
Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the cornmeal onto the center of a baking sheet and place the dough in the cornmeal.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and 2 tablespoons of buttermilk and brush the mixture over the top of the loaf. (This will give it a tasty brown crust!) Then, sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon of cornmeal.
With a sharp knife, score the top of the dough with a deep X and let the cut go all the way down the sides of the bread. This allows air to escape while the bread bakes and is essential, so don’t be timid!
Bake for 8-10 minutes, then reduce the over temperature to 400°F and bake for 18-20 minutes more, turning the pan halfway through so both sides cook evenly.
Test the bread by removing it from the oven and tapping on the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it’s done. Let cool on a wire rack before slicing.
*Want to make your recipe gluten-free friendly? Swap out all four cups of flour (plus more for dusting) with King Arthur’s Measure-for-Measure GF Flour. Be sure to check that your cornmeal and baking soda are also certified GF. Sometimes these ingredients are processed alongside gluten products.
Irish Soda Bread Variations
Add to the dry ingredients before mixing with the liquid (in place of the caraway and currants)
- Cheddar cheese with herbs: Add 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, sage, chives, or parsley. Add 1 cup grated cheddar cheese. Sprinkle 1/4 of cheese on top of the loaf before baking.
- Rosemary and olive: Add 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary and 2 tablespoons chopped pitted black olives.
- Basil and sun-dried tomatoes: Add 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil and 2 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes.
Looking for other quick bread recipes? Try our cranberry orange quick bread!