Amanda & Merrill

Irish Brown Soda Bread

December 21, 2010

Irish Brown Soda Bread


Okay, so I couldn't resist doing one more week of the yeast-free bread series. The real reason I felt the need to write one last column on the subject? I realized I hadn't yet shared my favorite quick bread recipe of all: an Irish brown soda bread that my mother has made for years. Now, this is not the slightly sweet, raisin-studded bread you may be expecting. This soda bread is more rustic and hearty, and totally savory. It's made with a combination of white and whole wheat flour and oats, and toasted wheat germ gives the loaf a wonderful nutty depth. Buttermilk keeps the bread from being dry. I like thick slices of it smeared with lots of salted butter.

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Irish Brown Soda Bread

Serves 8

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for kneading and baking
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • 1 to 1 1/3 cup buttermilk

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 425 degrees F. Sprinkle a baking sheet lightly with flour.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Add the butter and toss to coat in the flour. Use your fingers or two forks to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. (You can also do this in the food processor if you'd like.) Gradually add the buttermilk and stir or pulse just until the dough comes together (you may not need all the buttermilk).

3. On a floured surface, knead the dough gently for about a minute until smooth. Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to the baking sheet. Pat gently into a 7-inch round and sprinkle the top evenly with about a tablespoon of flour; with your fingertips, gently spread the flour evenly over the top of the round. Using a very sharp knife, cut a shallow "X" in the top of the loaf. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the loaf is brown, and the bottom sounds hollow when you tap it. Cool on a rack for at least 2 hours before slicing.


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Deirdrejd December 26, 2010
Wow, I still have the Gourmet that this recipe came from! March 1994. I kept it specifically for all the wonderful soda bread recipes in it. Have made some wonderful scones with it as well. I even looked for these on-line and couldn't find them through Gourmet so glad to know they can still resurface other ways.
pierino December 21, 2010
Yeah, sugar in everything sound like my grandmother too. I think she put it in her beer as well. Until my grandfather brought her and my aunt over here she'd never traveled further than Galway from far away Donegal. And you also get the same thing with Italian immigrants where a culture of poverty meets a land of abundance. They kind of overdo it.
Oui, C. December 21, 2010
I'm just getting into bread baking, and can't wait to give this one a try. Thanks, Merrill! - S
thirschfeld December 21, 2010
I have a question and I am sure there is a very good reason but why can't we save these recipes to our saved/favorites file?
drbabs December 21, 2010
Check the regular recipes--she just posted it--you can save it from there. (I did. Thanks, Merrill!)
Merrill S. December 21, 2010
So, the deal is that this is a blog post, not a regular recipe page. We try to add the recipes from our blog posts to the recipe database soon after the posts go up (which, as drbabs points out, is where you can later find the recipes and save them), but sometimes it takes us a few days. Sorry about any confusion!
Kitchen B. December 21, 2010
Love it - made soda bread once and the husband, an ardent bread fan gobbled it up. Thanks for the inspiration. Again. A blessed holiday season to you & your man!
Merrill S. December 21, 2010
Thank you! And same to you!
mrslarkin December 21, 2010
Ohhhh, yummy! MerrilI, I wonder if I can use some of my Dunany Farm Extra Coarse Irish Wholemeal Flour in this? What do you think?
Merrill S. December 21, 2010
It's worth a shot! Let me know how it goes...
MaryMaryCulinary December 21, 2010
I became addicted to this while working in Belfast. They call it wheaten bread there. I use a coarsely ground wheat flour along with the oats and I always include a bit of brown sugar or molasses. No butter in the bread, though I spread plenty on top!
thirschfeld December 21, 2010
I had to break an addiction to this stuff upon my return from a long stay in Ireland. Now you have my fingers twitching and my knees rattling for some salted butter and soda bread. Now I need to go take my medicine, Guiness-cilin
AntoniaJames December 21, 2010
Yes, salted butter is clearly the right choice here. And that Guiness-cilin (!!!). . . reminds me I need to increase my HSA substantially to account for that. ;o)
Merrill S. December 21, 2010
You crack me up, thirschfeld.
mcs3000 December 21, 2010
I've been baking my way through your series, Merrill. Grand, as the Irish say. I visited Ireland in 2006 and the brown breads I ate were amazing. I can't wait to make yours - thanks a million!
Merrill S. December 21, 2010
Fun! So glad you're a fan of Irish brown bread too.
cowgirlculture December 21, 2010
This looks wonderful and is perfect for people with yeast allergies! Thanks for the recipe (and photos) this is on my to do list!
Merrill S. December 21, 2010
You're welcome! Hope you like it.
pierino December 21, 2010
My Irish grandmother used to make Irish soda bread. Badly. But she was very good at burning chickens.
AntoniaJames December 21, 2010
Too funny, pierino. That bad Irish soda bread must appeal to someone, as one of our local high-end bakeries sells it. I've never fathomed why people like the traditional soda bread, except perhaps it's the only homemade bread they get in their house. In any event, this looks like an alternative that not only is edible, but would be enjoyable to eat!! ;o)
Merrill S. December 21, 2010
When she was still cooking, my New Zealand grandmother used to insist on putting a "bit of sugar" in everything -- no matter what it was.
AntoniaJames December 21, 2010
Actually, Merrill, I'm with the NZ grandmother on this one . . . I fully intend to put a tiny pinch of sugar in, not to add sweetness, because a quarter teaspoon of sugar simply can't, with the other ingredients here, especially the buttermilk, but because the sugar will bring out the savory flavors in the wheat germ, wheat flour, buttermilk and, yes, the oatmeal. Thinking about toasting the oatmeal flakes too, because I simply can't leave well enough alone. ;o)
Merrill S. December 21, 2010
Oh, yes, sugar in bread never an issue -- it was only when she'd add a spoonful of sugar to a gravy or macaroni and cheese or something that things went awry...
calendargirl December 21, 2010
Lovely, Merrill. It's great to have a savory quick bread in the arsenal. Thank you!
Merrill S. December 21, 2010
You're very welcome!
AntoniaJames December 21, 2010
Okay, so you may already have discerned that I prefer making yeast bread over quick bread, hands down. But here, you have my three favorite bread ingredients in a single loaf: wheat germ, oatmeal, and buttermilk. This is interesting, so I think I'll give it a go. Thanks for sharing this recipe.;o)
Merrill S. December 21, 2010
I thought you might be tempted by this one, AJ... :)
AntoniaJames December 21, 2010
I'm particularly interested in this recipe because it does not include baking powder, which you see so often in soda bread recipes these days. It utterly ruins the flavor and texture. Okay, I'll get off my soap box now. ;o)