Prefer Irish Brown Bread? Click here for my recipe.
I’ve learned a lot in my recent research on Irish soda bread thanks to the interwebs. For example, traditional Irish soda bread contains little more than flour, baking soda, buttermilk, and salt. In contrast, the sweeter Irish American versions often include butter, eggs, sugar, raisins, and caraway seeds. And of course there are all kinds of unique variations that people create to suit their own palate, which is exactly what I did over the weekend.
Before you grab your mixing bowl, let me tell you what to expect from soda bread the P.K. Way. In essence, this recipe builds on my beloved Irish Brown Bread, found here. While I actually prefer brown bread to Irish soda bread, I do enjoy both and wanted to come up with my own version that combined some of the texture of my Irish brown bread with a bit of the lightness of raisin-studded soda bread. To do this, I substituted white whole wheat flour for a (relatively) finer texture than all coarse whole wheat and I also added raisins. The resulting bread retains its whole grain character and crumb and the raisins and sugar add a hint of sweetness. Do be clear, though, that it it is by no means a sweet bread. It has a hard, tasty crust—the heels are almost crunchy—and a moist, dense interior. It is fabulous when just baked but also keeps in the fridge for many days. It’s perfect with a cup of tea and also makes great toast with a mug of coffee. And in case it isn’t obvious, this bread is wonderful with a slather of rich Irish butter, which is creamier and sweeter than many American butters. I wouldn’t say the butter is necessary.
But I would say it’s awesome.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
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Whole Wheat Irish Soda bread
- 2 cups white whole wheat flour
- 1 cup regular whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup wheat bran
- 1/2 cup wheat germ
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons Irish butter, cold, diced
- 1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
- 1 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the butter and mix it in with your fingers quickly until the mixture resembles sand. Stir in the raisins. Make a well in the flour bowl and pour the buttermilk into the center and stir together with a fork until fully incorporated (but with as little mixing as possible). The dough will be somewhat sticky. Turn it out onto a board and knead approximately 5-8 times, until the dough comes together. (Don’t overknead or the bread will be tough.) Shape the dough into a mound, flatten slightly, and use a sharp knife to cut a cross in the center about one-half inch deep. (The cuts need to be deep to allow the center of the bread to bake properly.) Bake 10 minutes at 400 degrees F, rotate the pan, then turn the oven down to 375 and bake an additional 40 to 50 minutes. The bread should be nicely browned and crusty and will sound hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack at least 10 minutes before cutting.
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For more information on all things Irish soda bread, read this interview on Epicurious here.
While enjoying a slice of this warm-from-the-oven bread, that is.