Irish soda bread has been popular in Ireland for hundreds of years. It started with the introduction of baking soda, which allowed people to make quick breads from just flour, baking soda, buttermilk and salt. Over time, additions to soda bread such as raisins, sugar and caraway seeds have made their way into modern American adaptations to classic soda bread traditions.
Baking soda interacts with the acidity of buttermilk to create the leavening agent in soda bread. Normally, you’d use yeast, but this way you don’t have to. Our recipe makes things even easier by eliminating the traditional buttermilk, which is the liquid left over after making butter. So what’s the best substitute for buttermilk? A simple combination of milk and vinegar will still get the reaction you need to make dough rise when baking, but you’re much more likely to have these ingredients on hand, so you can save a trip to the store.
Because soda bread is a quick bread it doesn’t get kneaded like traditional bread. Handle it as little as possible once you completely incorporate the ingredients. You’ll form it into two balls of dough for baking into rounds, lightly dust with flour and score the top into a cross. The scoring shape achieves multiple ends: it allows the heat to reach the thickest part of the bread more easily to facilitate even cooking and allows the crust to expand as the bread rises during the baking process. The scoring of the cross shape is even said to have religious meaning dating back hundreds of years in Irish history; you were “crossing” the bread and giving thanks.
This delicious bread has a long history for good reason: not only did it help Irish farmers sustain their energy in the fields long ago, it tastes great and is quick and easy to make. Prepare it for dinner, a potluck or brunch and be sure to serve it with a side of salted Irish butter. It’s best slathered with a generous portion.
Irish Soda Bread
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 2 large eggs, slightly beaten
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 1/2 cup raisins
- Heat oven to 350°F.
- In a large bowl, stir milk, butter, white vinegar, eggs, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and raisins until just blended.
- Divide mixture in half; shape into two round loaves. Cut an X in top of each loaf.
- Place loaves on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.
- Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks.
Dust the loaves with extra flour before cutting an X in the top if you like the floured appearance on the bread.
Will this same recipe work for high altitudes?
This is not real Irish soda bread. Real soda bread has 4 ingredients – flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. Anything else is a tea cake.
Sue, thanks for your comment. As we mention in the post, the original Irish soda bread is made of those exact four ingredients. Our recipe is admittedly a modern American take on the classic, but was taste-test approved by Martin, who said it reminded him of the soda bread his grandmother used to make in Ireland. Thanks again!
What a great question! We test our recipes at sea level. I asked our test kitchen experts, and it should work, but you may need to make some adjustments in the amounts of liquids and/or other ingredients. King Arthur has an excellent guide to high altitude baking we recommend reading for additional advice. Thanks!
Can I use 2% milk?
Looks so yummy, gatta try of this weekend.
Can the dough be frozen to use at a later time?
This recipe for soda bread depends mainly on baking soda and vinegar for rising. Those ingredients react with each other right away. If not baked immediately, the rise of the bread will be reduced. It does, however, call for double acting baking powder, which generates a second burst of carbon dioxide in the oven. If you cannot use both loaves right away, it’s worth a try to freeze the dough. Just know that it may not rise as high as it would if it was baked immediately. Hope this helps!