Baking & Dessert

By Tara O'Keeffe | March 18, 2011

Photo: Tara O’Keeffe

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day and my Irish heritage, I endeavored to find the most authentic Irish brown soda bread recipe to bring a taste of family home. This craggy-looking wheat bread is crunchy on the outside, soft and dense on the inside, and the perfect vessel for rich, Irish butter.

When I visit my family in Ireland I love nothing more than enjoying a cup of tea with a slice of warm brown bread and butter, an everyday delicacy there. I have searched the bakeries in New York City and have yet to find something that comes close. Most breads sold are the American version of Irish soda bread, made with white flour and sweetened with raisins and seeds.

After much research, I found the secret to great Irish brown soda bread is Irish wholemeal flour. Milled from red wheat, it has a coarse texture and a nutty flavor. I wasn’t able to find it in stores, but it’s available online from King Arthur Flour. After testing several recipes I came up with what I think is the closest I’ll come to the real thing. I did try it with whole wheat flour, and while it’s not quite the same, it’s still a delicious substitute if you can’t get your hands on wholemeal flour.

Photo: Tara O’Keeffe

This bread is so simple to make, it takes less than 10 minutes to prepare, requires no fancy equipment, and bakes in less than in hour. Pop a loaf of this in the oven on Saturday morning and enjoy a hearty, healthy breakfast all weekend long. I highly recommend picking up a stick of Kerry Gold Irish butter to really turn this into an authentic delight.

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

Tara O’Keeffe is a food writer and author of FunFearlessFoodie.com.

Authentic Irish Brown Soda Bread Recipe

Servings: makes 1 round loaf

Ingredients

  • 4 cups King Arthur Irish-style wholemeal flour(or substitute whole wheat flour)
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl, stirring to combine well. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk and melted butter. Bring the dough together with a fork until it is damp and some flour remains in the bottom of the bowl. Dump the dough and excess flour onto a clean counter and knead together, about 5 to 10 times, until it's a solid mass and holds its shape (It's OK if some flour remains on the counter). Transfer the dough to a greased sheet tray and cut a cross shape into the dough with your knife.

3. Place in a 400 degree F oven and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate pan and turn the oven down to 375 degrees F and continue baking for 30 minutes, or until the outside is nicely browned, it sounds hallow when you tap it, and a cake tester comes out clean.

4. Let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then slice and serve with rich Irish butter and jam.

5. This bread is best right out of the oven and will only stay fresh for 2-3 days, perfect for a weekend. To enjoy the next day, reheat in the oven until warmed through. Or, you can freeze the bread wrapped tightly in plastic then wrapped in foil for up to 3 weeks.

Cook's note: It is important to bake this right away, because of the chemical reaction between the baking soda and the buttermilk, the gasses formed to help the bread rise start immediately. You can combine your dry ingredients in advance and add the wet when you're ready.

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