Photos and Words by Taylor Mazzuoccola
I am certain that around Christmastime I turned to my roommate and exclaimed, “I can’t wait for Saint Patrick’s Day – only for the Irish soda bread!” She responded to my random burst of excitement with a glance, but ever since then I haven’t been able to get the idea of a warm slice of the bread hinted with the flavor of baking soda and preferably embedded with sweet dried fruit out of my mind. A shmear of melted butter on top wouldn’t hurt either. So, with the month of March came the opportunity for me to finally turn my dream into reality. The first and only thing I wanted to do on my first official day of Spring Break was bake my very own loaf of Irish soda bread. This was an ambitious idea because as much as I enjoy cooking, I am not a baker; something about crucial exact measurements and precision – I don’t know, my attempts never come out just right. But, after some research, I found a simple recipe that seemed easy enough for even me to follow.
I also wanted my bread to be relatively nutritious so that I could enjoy it as a part of my meals without it being a complete treat. This partially whole-wheat recipe fit the bill, and I happened to have each of the ingredients except for the buttermilk on hand. After a quick trip to the grocery store, I found ways to substitute and incorporate the remaining buttermilk into some other dishes throughout the week, so it worked out well and nothing went to waste.
Whole Grain Irish Soda Bread Adapted from Eating Well
Total time: 1 1/2 hours (including cooling)
2 cups whole-wheat flour 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups buttermilk
Optional: roughly 1 cup dried fruit (I used Trader Joes’ raisin medley, but currants, plain raisins, cranberries, blueberries, or whatever suits your taste works too!)
- Preheat oven to 450°F. Coat baking sheet or pan with cooking spray and sprinkle with flour.
- In a large bowl, combine flours, baking soda, salt; add fruit if desired, whisk together while pouring in buttermilk. Stir in full circles until all flour is incorporated. The dough should be moist and soft, but not too wet and sticky.
- Quickly turn dough onto well-floured surface. Wash dough off hands.
- Flour hands and gently pat dough to smooth and create the loaf’s round shape. Flip over and flatten the loaf slightly or to about 2 inches before transferring onto prepared baking area. Mark the top with a deep cross, creating four quadrants. The top may be left unsmooth.
- Bake bread for 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 400° and continue to bake until the loaf is brown on top and sounds hollow when tapped. This may take 20-35 minutes, depending on your oven. (I preformed the “toothpick test” in order to ensure my loaf was baked to perfection.)
- Transfer the finished loaf onto a wire rack and let cool for about 30 minutes.
Despite the addition of whole-wheat flour, this bread was not dry at all; it was dense yet soft and doughy. I will definitely be making this again. And I highly recommend French-toasting slices of this bread on a weekend morning.
In my opinion, Irish soda bread is underrated. Why should bread this delicious only be enjoyed once a year and for such a brief amount of time?