Irish Soda Bread


Irish Soda Bread

Yield: makes 1 loaf  |  Total time: 45 min
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In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, here’s a winning recipe for Irish soda bread. The basic traditional version calls for flour, buttermilk, baking soda, and salt. I’ve gussied it up a little bit and added citrus zest, raisins and currants. It’s also good with some candied orange peel or bits of dark chocolate, but currants and raisins in the mix provide a delicious quick bread that can go either savory or sweet. This bread doesn’t need much, just a smear of good salted butter, preferably Irish or a thick slice of Cheddar. If you have a sweet tooth, add a smear of some good lemon curd or jam.

Note: This bread tends to dry out rather quickly so it is best to enjoy it freshly baked and warm, or toasted the next day with a smear of Irish butter.


    4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

    2 tablespoons sugar

    1 teaspoon salt

    1 teaspoon baking soda

    4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces

    About 1 cup raisins (or currants and raisins combined)

    1 tablespoons fresh lemon or orange zest

    1 tablespoon fresh lemon or orange juice

    1 large egg, lightly beaten

    ½ cup small dark chocolate chips (optional)

    1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups buttermilk


    1. Preheat oven to 425°. Lightly grease a baking sheet or a (10-inch) cast-iron skillet; set aside.
    2. Combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda together in a large mixing bowl. Work the butter into the flour mixture, using your fingers (or two knives, a pastry cutter) until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add in the raisins, zest, juice, and chocolate, if using.
    3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add the beaten egg, and add the 1 ½ cups of the buttermilk; stir mixture with a wooden spoon until dough is stiff. If too dry, add a bit more buttermilk, up to another ¼ cup. Dust hands with a tiny bit of flour and gently knead dough in the bowl just until it forms a rough ball. NOTE: Be careful not to overwork the dough or the bread will be tough. If the dough is too sticky, add a tiny bit of flour, but keep in mind that the dough should be somewhat sticky and a bit shaggy. The flour should be wet enough so that the dough barely comes together. Do not over-knead.
    4. Transfer dough to the prepared baking sheet or skillet. Using a knife, cut an “X” in the center of the dough, about 3/4-inch deep; this will help heat get into the center of the bread as it cooks. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Note: A cast-iron skillet might take a little longer to heat. Also, test by inserting a thin skewer or knife tip into the center; if it comes out clean, your bread is ready to go. Remove pan or skillet from the oven; let bread sit in the pan or skillet for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool very briefly. This is best eaten freshly-baked and warm or toasted the next day.  

    Date Published: March 16, 2015

    All recipes have been tested by the Test Kitchens unless otherwise noted.

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