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Recipe for Irish Soda Bread: White, Brown and With Sultanas

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L.M.Reid creates delicious recipes and gives step-by-step instructions with her own photos so you can learn how to make each recipe at home.

Recipe for Irish soda bread

Recipe for Irish soda bread

How to Make Irish Soda Bread

In this article, I will share step-by-step instructions and photos so that you can make this delicious bread anytime. I've included recipes for three soda bread variations:

  1. Brown
  2. White
  3. Sultana

I have also included a video of my 85-year-old mother making the bread.

Recipe 1: Brown Irish Soda Bread

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces/450 grams plain brown flour
  • 1 level teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 pint/350 ml buttermilk
  • 1 level teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces/110 grams soft margarine

Step 1: Mix the Dry Ingredients

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 Fahrenheit or gas mark nine. Lightly grease your chosen tin.
  2. Into a large bowl sieve the flour, and then add the salt and baking soda. Mix these ingredients together with your fingers, lifting slightly in the air as you do so.
  3. This gives the best result because it allows the air to pass through the mixture naturally. Put in the margarine and mix with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly.
  4. Do not use a mixer for this process because you will find your soda bread will taste heavy. This is because the air has not had enough time to mix in with the ingredients.

Step 2: Mix the Wet Ingredients

  1. Make a hole in the centre of the mixture and add half the amount of buttermilk. Mix in with a wooden spoon. Gradually add in the remainder of the milk.
  2. Once the milk has been blended with the dry ingredients it is time to finish off the mixing with your hands. You are aiming to achieve a light, soft dough, sticky but not too wet.
  3. On a wooden board sprinkle a generous amount of flour. Sprinkle a little flour onto the top of your mixture in the basin to allow for easy removal. Tip out the finished mixture onto the board.
Mix the ingredients together with your fingers, lifting slightly in the air as you do so.

Mix the ingredients together with your fingers, lifting slightly in the air as you do so.

Step 3: Knead the Dough

  1. You will have to lightly knead the dough for about 1 minute. Cover your hands with flour, as this helps with the process. If the dough gets too sticky, add more flour to the mixture.
  2. Once this process is finished, add a sprinkling of flour on top of the dough. Put into your tin. Most people like to use the traditional round shape. I have been taught by my mother to use an oblong shape tin, so this method is what I use.

Step 4: Make the Cross

The last important step before baking the bread is the cross. Using a large knife, cut down and across to make a deep cut in the dough. When the bread is cooked, this cross will have separated the bread so that it is very easy to break the bread into four quarters, making it easier to cut into slices and for storage and freezing.

Lightly knead the dough for Irish soda bread for about one minute.

Lightly knead the dough for Irish soda bread for about one minute.

Step 5: Bake the Bread in the Oven

  1. Bake in the preheated oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes.
  2. Turn down the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for the remaining 30 minutes.
  3. Have a clean wet tea cloth ready for when you are about to remove the soda bread from the oven.
  4. If you bake this bread often, it is advisable to have a plastic bowl and a few tea towels exclusively for this purpose.

How Do You Know When It Is Baked?

It should look lightly brown on top. Before removing it from the oven you can test it by inserting a large knife into the centre. If it comes out dry then it is cooked. Bring the tin over to the wet tea towel and tip out onto it.

If this is your first time baking soda bread and you are not too sure if it is cooked then once it is removed from the baking tin you can tap the underneath lightly, if it sounds hollow then it is ready. This should also be lightly brown in colour and firm.

As quickly as you can wrap the wet tea towel around the hot soda bread and leave standing up against the wall or on a wire tray until cool. This will trap the flavour in and keep the bread soft while it cools.

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Recipe 2: White Irish Soda Bread

To make the white bread variation:

  1. Substitute 12 ounces/340 grams of brown flour with the same amount of white flour.
  2. Prepare and bake as above.

Recipe 3: Irish Soda Bread With Sultanas

  • 16 ounces/450 grams plain white flour
  • 1 level teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 pint/350 ml buttermilk
  • 1 level teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces/110 grams soft margarine
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 5 ounces/140 grams sultanas
  • 1 large egg

Step 1: Mix the Dry Ingredients

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 Fahrenheit / Gas Mark 9.
  2. Lightly grease your chosen tin.
  3. Into a large bowl sieve the flour, and then add the salt, baking soda, sugar and sultanas.
  4. Mix these ingredients together with your fingers, lifting slightly in the air.
  5. This gives the best result because it allows the air to pass through the mixture naturally.
  6. Put in the margarine and mix with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly.

Step 2: Add the Wet Ingredients

  1. Add the egg and half the buttermilk into a small dish and whisk gently with a fork.
  2. Make a hole in the centre of the mixture and add this to it.
  3. Mix in with a wooden spoon. Gradually add in the remainder of the buttermilk.
  4. Once the milk has been blended with the dry ingredients it is time to finish off the mixing with your hands. You are aiming to achieve a light, soft dough, sticky but not too wet.
  5. On a wooden board sprinkle a generous amount of flour.
  6. Sprinkle a little flour onto the top of your mixture in the basin to allow for easy removal.
  7. Tip out the finished mixture on to the board.
Learn how to make the cross for Irish soda bread: Using a large knife, cut down and across to make a deep cut in the dough of the soda bread.

Learn how to make the cross for Irish soda bread: Using a large knife, cut down and across to make a deep cut in the dough of the soda bread.

Step 3: Knead the Dough and Make the Cross

  1. Lightly knead the dough.
  2. You will have to lightly knead the dough for about 1 minute.
  3. Cover your hands with flour as this helps with the process. If the dough gets too sticky add more flour to the mixture.
  4. Once this process is finished add a sprinkling of flour on top of the dough.
  5. Knead until you have a nice shaped ball.
  6. The last important step before baking the Irish Soda Bread is the cross. Using a large knife cut down and across to make a deep cut in the dough.

When the bread is cooked this cross will have separated the bread so that it is very easy to break the soda bread into four quarters.

Step 4: Bake the Bread

  1. Bake in the preheated oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes.
  2. Turn down the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for the remaining 30 minutes.
  3. Have a clean wet tea cloth ready for when you are about to remove the loaf from the oven.
  4. Check on the loaf to see if it is cooked. It should look lightly brown on top.
  5. Before removing it from the oven you can test it by inserting a large knife into the centre.
  6. If it comes out dry then it is cooked.
  7. Bring the tin over to the wet tea towel and tip out onto it.
  8. Once removed from the oven tap the underneath lightly, if it sounds hollow then it is ready. This should also be lightly brown in colour and firm.

The sultana soda bread can be covered with butter and jam for a delicious snack. By pouring hot custard over the sultana bread you have a very quick and tasty dessert.

Irish soda bread with sultanas

Irish soda bread with sultanas

How Long Does Soda Bread Keep?

For the best flavour and taste it is always eaten the same day. Once it has cooled down enough to cut, then slice it up and spread on butter. You can also add jam or honey. Another very popular use in Ireland for this bread is at breakfast time.

After frying an egg, rasher, tomatoes and sausage on the pan add a little bit of oil to the pan and cook for about 15 seconds, until the bread is lightly brown. This soaks up all the flavours of the rashers, tomatoes and sausages.

Freezing Soda Bread

This bread freezes very well, so if it is not going to be eaten that day prepare it for the freezer. It is always best to do this as soon as the bread is cool enough because the freshness is then frozen.

You can either wrap a quarter piece of the loaf in a freezer bag and freeze whole or you can cut up in slices and wrap two slices in each piece of cling film. Once removed from the freezer and put in the microwave to defrost it is as fresh as if it has just come out of the oven.

Questions & Answers

Question: What are sultanas?

Answer: Sultanas are dried grapes that are added when baking cakes. They are called raisons in the USA and Canada

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