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.
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!
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
*recipe adapted from Irish Traditional Cooking by Darina Allen
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
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.