Gammy’s Irish soda bread (“Gammy” is what my dad and his five siblings called their grandmother) is a Lange family classic: hearty, barely sweet, and always served with a spread of butter so thick that you can see the marks of your teeth in it. At its base is a simple, sticky soda-leavened dough flavored with buttermilk, which is traditional for Irish soda breads. From there, though, Gammy’s version veers distinctly in the direction of Irish-American. It calls for white flour rather than whole wheat (aka wholemeal, in Ireland), as well as raisins, currants, and caraway seeds. It probably wouldn’t be considered a true soda bread in Ireland, but that’s what Gammy called it and therefore, so do I.
I love currants in scones, and revisiting Ovenly’s excellent rosemary-currant ones made me curious about replicating the flavor of our family’s soda bread while trading its crumbly, moist texture for a buttery, flaky one. I think I’ve done it here. Butterier (thanks to lots of Kerrygold Salted Butter) but otherwise just like the original, these Irish soda bread scones are a very happy accompaniment to a cup of tea.
They do have a bit of an existential problem, which is that…these soda bread scones have no baking soda. I swapped the soda for baking powder for a more controlled rise; otherwise, the baking soda reacts so strongly to the large amount of buttermilk that the scones get puffy and shaggy, losing their sharp, crisp edges. The other key to keeping those edges (and getting the flakiest scones) is keeping the dough very cold—that’s why these chill twice before baking.
If you’d like, you can make these ahead. Freeze them solid after slicing and bake from frozen, brushing with buttermilk and sprinkling with sugar before baking; you may need to add a few extra minutes to the cook time. Alternatively, you can freeze after baking for up to 2 months; warm in the toaster or the oven before serving. —Caroline Lange
Test Kitchen Notes
This recipe is shared in partnership with Kerrygold. —The Editors
- Prep time 45 minutes
- Cook time 18 minutes
- makes 8 scones
2 1/2 cups
(300 grams) all-purpose flour
(50 grams) plus 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar, divided
(12 grams) baking powder
(113 grams) Kerrygold Salted Butter, cold and cubed
(75 grams) raisins
(71 grams) currants
(227 grams) plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk, cold and divided
- Whisk together the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl. Working quickly, toss the butter cubes with the dry mix, then use your fingers to smush it until it’s the size of peas. Toss the mixture with the caraway seeds, raisins, and currants, then move the whole bowl to the refrigerator for 15 minutes. While that chills, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Fold in 2/3 cup buttermilk with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. The dough will be relatively dry but should start to come together into a shaggy lump. Lightly flour a surface and turn the dough out onto it. Knead a few times until it comes together, then shape into a circle about 1-inch thick. Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 scones. Place the scones on the prepared baking sheet and place in the freezer for 15 minutes. Heat the oven to 425°F.
- Brush the chilled scones with the remaining 1 tablespoon buttermilk and sprinkle with the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, rotating halfway through, until golden on top. Serve warm, with additional butter for spreading.