Brown Soda Bread

Slieve League, County Donegal
The smell of freshly baked bread, still warm, cooling on in the kitchen should be bottled and sold. Nothing is more comforting and evocative of nostalgia. This bread is no exception. There are many variations of Irish Soda Bread– some with raisins, seeds, or both; some have butter, sugar, or even an egg to make them a little richer; some with white flour, or some with whole wheat. They all share some sort of flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk. This brown soda bread, made with whole-wheat flour, is the most basic version.
Brú na Bóinne
Throughout Ireland, brown soda bread is offered with meals- and it is incredible! I make it here at home, and though delicious, nothing compares to the bread I’ve had in Ireland. It must be the flour- the brown soda bread in Ireland is coarser and nuttier than what I’ve been able to make in my own kitchen. I am seriously considering importing a bag of whole wheat flour, just so I can experiment!
Lough Eske, Donegal
Though not an exact replica (how could it be?), this dense, chewy and hearty bread comes together quickly and is well worth making. In less than an hour, you will be enjoying a warm slice of bread, slathered in butter, with a touch of jam. It is ideal for serving alongside your favorite soup or getting you through the late afternoon slump with a cup of tea. Add it to your cheese board with cheddar and apples. It is also delicious with smoked salmon.
Brown Soda Bread on cutting board

Brown Soda Bread

  • Servings: 2 loaves
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*recipe adapted from Irish Traditional Cooking by Darina Allen

Ingredients:
4 cups whole wheat flour
4 cups all-purpose flour
3 rounded teaspoons of salt
2 rounded teaspoons of baking soda
3½-3¾ cups of buttermilk

Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Mix the dry ingredients together. Make a well in the center and add most of the buttermilk all in one go. Working from the center, mix with a wooden spoon and add more buttermilk if necessary. The dough should be soft, but not sticky. Turn out onto a floured surface and divide dough in half. Knead each half lightly, just enough to shape it into a round loaf. Flatten each loaf to about 2 inches deep. Put into a cast iron skillet or lined baking sheet. Mark with a deep cross and bake in the hot oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 400°F for about 20-25 minutes more, or until bottom of the bread sounds hollow when tapped.

Remove from cast iron skillet or baking sheet and let cool on a wire rack.

Whole-wheat flour, all purpose flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk
Ingredients for Brown Soda Bread- whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk
Mixing dry ingredients with wooden spoon
Mix the dry ingredients together.
Well in the center of dry ingredients
Make a well in the center of your dry ingredients.
Pour buttermilk in center of well
Carefully pour almost the entire amount of buttermilk into the well.
Mixing brown soda bread dough with a wooden spoon
Use a wooden spoon to combine the buttermilk and dry ingredients.
Brown Soda Bread dough on lightly floured surface
When dough is soft, but not sticky, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough in half.
Two loaves of brown soda bread dough
Knead dough just enough to form 2 round loaves about 2 inches deep.
Brown Soda Bread Loaves cooling on wire rack
Transfer loaves to wire rack and let cool.

Brown Soda Bread, cheese, and apples

51 thoughts on “Brown Soda Bread

    1. Thank you, Liz! There are a few different soda breads I make… This one with whole wheat, another that is plain white soda bread, and then the soda bread with raisins. Would love to know how your grandmother made hers!

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  1. I love soda bread. Make it every 2 or 3 days here and you are right the flavour is slightly different to the bread I enjoy in Ireland. As well as the cross on top, I always spike each quarter with a knife to let the fairies out …. otherwise the mischievous little things will ruin the loaf, the say 😉

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      1. Glad I’m not the only manhandler! For me, I have the most success with a Cooks Illustrated biscuit recipe. Basically you are allowed to handle the dough just enough to do a couple of tosses back and forth between your hands to form a ball.

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      2. I have a heavy hand. I like my biscuit recipe because it is exact, you fold and press the biscuit dough exactly 5 times before cutting out the biscuits. You whiz the butter into the flour in the food processor and then barely stir the buttermilk into it, just so it’s cohesive. The results are always good. I am trying your soda bread.

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  2. My 85 year old Mum makes something very similar. The principal difference is that she doesn’t use any measures. It always coms out perfect. I have to watch her doing it again so I can learn. It really is traditional here.
    Happy St. Patrick’s Day from Dublin, Ireland,
    Conor

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  3. I really want to try this and the buttermilk sounds like it would just make this amazing! I love putting buttermilk in pancakes, cakes etc. so I think it would be fun to try this. I loved the gorgeous pictures and I know that feeling when you have ingredients that are so special they just can’t quite be duplicated! It would be so lovely to go to Ireland!

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    1. Lynn, thank you much! Other than the few pics from February break, I haven’t shared any personal photos (other than food), but you, Sadie, and others inspired me. I hope you get to visit Ireland; it’s just a beautiful and very special place.

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  4. I love soda bread. My best friend at uni was Irish and always brought some back with her after holidays. I keep saying I’m going to make some of my own but I never seem to get around to it!
    I thought you might also like to know that several of the pictures on the post aren’t showing – it could just be my internet connection but you might want to check them out…

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    1. Thank you so much for stopping by! I’m glad you have such good memories of soda bread! Thank you also for mentioning the missing pics, I really appreciate it… I just checked from my end and all the photos are showing up on my regular desktop computer as well as my IPad. Hopefully you can see them now as well!

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      1. I had to help my mum out last year when she deleted all her pictures from her media library, not realising that they’d also be deleted from her posts. I was worried that you might have done something similar!

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  5. Well, your flour might not be exactly the same as that you had in Ireland, but your soda bread still looks delicious – lovely and rich and brown. Buttermilk seems to be a regular ingredient in many old-style recipes. I could just eat a piece, smeared with butter and with some gorgeous cheese.

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    1. Thank you, Millie! Homemade bread, assortment of cheese, and some wine is one of my all time favorite dinners… add a roaring fire in the fireplace and a movie and that describes the perfect evening for me. 😊

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  6. I couldn’t agree more about bottling and selling that smell! It would the healthiest and most delicious antidepressant! Bread is one of my favorite things in life and just looking at it and smelling it make me happy!
    It looks stunning! So yummy!

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