Irish Soda Bread (American-Style) – Flecked with raisins and caraway seeds, this recipe is sweet, moist, and tender with a pleasantly crunchy outer crust.
My husband wouldn’t eat this bread. One word: raisins. Yep. He said, “I like raisins, but I don’t want them in my baked goods.” I think a lot of people feel that way, and I do sometimes. However, I think they’re perfect in this Irish Soda Bread!
And apparently so do the Americans who found it necessary to put their own spin on traditional Irish soda bread, which doesn’t have raisins at all. In fact, traditional Irish soda bread also doesn’t have sugar, eggs, or caraway seeds! It’s very basic and not nearly as rich or sweet as the American version. Once again, the Yanks went and did their own thing. I’d expect nothing less!
With St. Patrick’s Day already here next week, I thought it would be fitting to share a recipe for Irish Soda Bread. It’s a bread that gets a lot of play around St. Patrick’s Day in grocery store ads, but it seems to be largely forgotten much of the rest of the year. That’s a shame, too, because it’s such a good bread! Sweet, rich, and moist with a crunchy outer crust. Today’s recipe also includes caraway seeds which add a warm, kind of peppery aroma. Think rye bread. (Totally optional if that’s not your thing.)
This bread is fairly easy to pull together, but there are a few pointers to keep in mind:
- The recipe recommends a lower-protein flour. Trust me, this makes a difference! I had an epic fail with this recipe when I used King Arthur flour, which has a protein content of 11.7%. The result was a very tough and heavy loaf of bread. Not good. When I tried the recipe with Gold Medal flour, which has a protein content of 10.5%, the results were remarkably better. Much lighter and more tender.
- Do not overknead the dough. It should be a little bumpy. Too much kneading will result in a tougher bread.
- Cutting an X in the top of the dough before baking will allow the bread to expand nicely instead of resulting in ugly, jagged gashes on the bread’s finished surface.
It’s actually a really simple bread to make. Doesn’t require yeast or rise time. (Warning – chemistry lesson ahead!) In fact, combining the baking soda (a base) and buttermilk (an acid) creates a chemical reaction that releases carbon dioxide gas almost immediately. The carbon dioxide expands upon baking, and the bread rises, or is leavened. Because of this immediate reaction between the baking soda and buttermilk, it’s very important to bake the bread right away after mixing and not allow the dough to sit. So, warm up that oven ahead of time and have it ready to go!
The result is a sweet, moist, tender bread with a pleasant crunchy crust. Oh, and don’t forget the raisins!
Which type of Irish soda bread do you prefer? Traditional or American-Style?
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus additional for work surface
- 1 cup cake flour
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter softened, plus 1 tablespoon melted butter for crust
- 1 ¼ cups buttermilk
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 tablespoon caraway seeds optional
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt. Work the softened butter into the dry ingredients with a fork or your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Combine the buttermilk and egg with a fork. Add the buttermilk/egg mixture, raisins, and caraway seeds to the flour mixture and stir with a fork just until the dough begins to come together.
Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead until the dough becomes cohesive and bumpy, about 12-14 turns. Do not knead dough until smooth; this will result in tough bread.
Pat the dough into a round about 6” in diameter and 2” high and place on baking sheet. Use a serrated knife to cut an X in the top of the dough. X should be about 5” long and ¾” deep.
Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes. If bread is browning too much during baking, cover with a tent of aluminum foil.
Remove bread from oven and immediately brush the surface with melted butter. Cool to room temperature, at least 45 minutes.