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Irish Brown Soda Bread

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With Saint Patrick’s Day right around the corner, we are bringing you an Irish Brown Soda Bread to add to your festivities. This Irish soda bread is a quick bread that uses baking soda as a leavening (similar to how we made our barley bread).

It is denser than a yeast bread yet it is soft inside with a crunchy crust. Just imagine a warm slice of this bread smeared with rich, creamy butter. Yum!

Overhead view of baked bread on cooling rack

You probably noticed that just about every local bakery and grocery store is stocking their shelves with some Irish soda bread. Skip the lines at the bakery and make a batch of soda bread right in the comfort of your own kitchen.

Our spelt Irish soda bread was the inspiration for this delicious Irish brown soda bread recipe. It is the perfect treat to make with your family this Saint Patrick’s Day. 

Irish Soda Bread Facts:

Soda bread became popular in Ireland about the time of the potato famine of 1845 to 1849. Since then, soda bread has become intertwined in Irish culture and the delicacy is served throughout the year.

This easy bread became popular as baking soda became a substitute for yeast. Irish immigrants in the United States brought the recipe over and it quickly became a beloved Saint Patty’s Day tradition. 

What We Love About This Irish Brown Soda Bread Recipe:

This simple bread recipe is one of our favorites for so many reasons, but to name a few:

  • It is festive, fun and easy to bake. 
  • A great way to experience a historical dish from the Irish culture. 
  • It is very filling and packed with healthy ingredients which makes for a great breakfast option or a snack with a cup of tea.
Close up view of Irish Brown Soda Bread with 3 cut slices

Ingredients Needed for Our Irish Brown Soda Bread:

The ingredients needed for this recipe are basic and may already be stocked in your pantry. Here is a list of the ingredients you will need to bake this delicious brown soda bread are:

  • Flour. We used whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour.
  • Wheat Bran. Adds an earthy, nutty flavor as well as a healthy dose of fiber and nutrients.
  • Salt. Balances the flavors
  • Baking soda and baking powder. These are the leaveners that make the bread rise. Make sure they are not expired.
  • Cold butter. For texture and flavor.
  • Egg. Eggs bind the dough and create a tender texture.
  • Buttermilk. Buttermilk adds some tang, tenderizes the bread, and adds acidity so the baking soda will react.
  • Molasses. Gives the bread a lightly sweet, robust flavor. It also has some acidity to help the baking soda react.
  • Oats – finishing
Ingredients needed for Irish Brown Soda Bread

Our Quick Bread Recipe :

Soda bread is considered a quick bread as it does not require yeast for the leavening agent, but uses baking soda instead.

We deviate slightly from traditional Irish brown soda bread by adding a measure of baking powder along with the baking soda. The baking powder gives the dough a little more lift resulting in a lighter bread.

How to Make Irish Brown Soda Bread:

We are listing brief instructions for this Irish brown soda bread recipe, be sure to scroll to the bottom of the post for the detailed instructions in the recipe card.

  1. Add the flours, bran, salt, baking soda and baking powder to a large bowl and whisk to combine.
  2. Cut the butter into bits and rub it into the flour mixture with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. In a separate bowl or pitcher, whisk together the egg, buttermilk and molasses. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the buttermilk mixture. 
  4. Stir the mixture together, gradually incorporating the flour.  The dough will be soft and slightly sticky.
  5. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape the dough into a round disk. Place it on a baking sheet and cut a cross on the top
  6. Brush the dough with additional buttermilk and sprinkle with a tablespoon of oats.
Processing photos of Irish Brown Soda Bread

Processing photos of Irish Brown Soda Bread

Baking the Irish Brown Soda Bread:

  1. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 400°F and bake an additional 25 to 30 minutes.
  2. Cool the bread on a wire rack.
  3. To check for doneness, tip the bread on its side and tap the bottom. When done, the bread will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Processing photos of Irish Soda Bread being prepared for baking.

Baker’s Tips & Tricks for Recipe Success: 

  • Buttermilk is a vital ingredient in this recipe because it has the acidity needed for baking soda to react. Regular milk or non-dairy milk will not produce the same results.  You can make homemade buttermilk by combining 8 ounces of whole milk with 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. Super easy and tastes delicious!
  • When you adjust the oven temperature at the 15-minute mark be sure to check on the bread. If you notice that it is browning too quickly, cover it with a piece of foil for the remainder of the baking time. 
Overhead photo of bread on a plate, a serving with butter/jam and a jar of jam and knife

Frequently Asked Questions:

How do I store Irish Soda Bread? How long does it last?

To store the bread, wrap in plastic film and keep at room temperature. It should last 2-4 days at room temperature.  Irish soda bread, can also be frozen in an airtight container for up to 3 months. 

Can I substitute oats in this recipe? 

The oats in this recipe are intended as a decorative finish. You can omit them or sub them with sunflower seeds or nuts.

Is Irish Soda Bread healthy for you?

Traditional Irish soda bread is a great, healthier alternative to regular bread. All the ingredients in this recipe are nutritious and good for you. Homemade Irish soda bread is definitely healthier for you than its store-bought counterparts.

Some additional ingredients in this brown soda bread recipe, such as whole wheat flour, and wheat bran, make this recipe heartier and healthier. 

SOME OTHER RECIPES WE ARE SURE YOU WILL LOVE:

  • Irish Beef and Stout Pies: Puff pastry tops off individual Irish beef and stout pies. This Irish pub specialty has onions and mushrooms in a savory, rich sauce that includes stout beer.
  • Slow Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage: Celebrate the luck of the Irish this St. Patric Day with a tender, corned beef brisket that includes potatoes, carrots, turnips and cabbage cooke in the slow cooker.
  • Dublin Coddle: This humble Irish stew has pork sausage, barley, vegetables and herbs. It is ‘coddled’ meaning ‘slow-cooked’ which produces an intense flavor.

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Close up view of Irish Brown Soda Bread

Irish Brown Soda Bread

Yield: 1 large 10-inch round loaf
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Irish brown soda bread is a quick-bread made without yeast. This traditional brown bread uses baking soda as the levening agent. We added a little baking powder to give it more rise. It is naturally dense and gets its beautiful color from a dollop of molasses.

Ingredients

  • 1-3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat bran
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon oats for finishing

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, reserve.
  2. Add the flours, bran, salt, baking soda and baking powder to a large bowl and whisk to combine.
  3. Cut the butter into bits and rub it into the flour mixture with your fingertips until it resembles bread crumbs.
  4. In a separate bowl or pitcher, whisk together the egg, buttermilk and molasses.
  5. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the buttermilk mixture. 
  6. Stir the mixture together in a circular direction, beginning in the center, gradually working to the outside edge, incorporating the flour.  The dough will be soft and slightly sticky.
  7. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and using your hands, gently shape the dough into a round, pressing it to about 2-inches thick and place on the parchment paper lined baking sheet.  
  8. Using a sharp knife, cut a cross on the top of the dough.  Make a small incision in each section of the cross.
  9. With a silicon pastry brush, glaze the dough with additional buttermilk and sprinkle with a tablespoon of oats.
  10. Transfer to the oven and and bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 400°F and bake an additional 25 to 30 minutes.
  11. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the bread to a wire cooling rack.
  12. To check for doneness, tip the bread on its side and tap the bottom. 
  13. When done, the bread will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom and an instant-read thermometer will read 200°F. 

Notes

  • Buttermilk is a vital ingredient in this recipe, no substitutions.  You can make a homemade buttermilk by combining 8 ounces whole milk with 2 tablespoons white vinegar and allowing it to sit for 30 minutes or more.  
  • When you adjust the oven temperature at the 15-minute mark, check the bread and if it is browning too quickly, cover it with a piece of foil.  
  • This bread will keep for 2-4 days. To store the bread, wrap in plastic film and keep at room temperature.

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Fernanda Birrell

Saturday 13th of March 2021

The only white vinegar I can get in Portugal is used for cleaning. Can I use a wine or apple vinegar?

Dahn Boquist

Saturday 13th of March 2021

Yes, either of those vinegars will work fine, they will just have a slightly different flavor.

angiesrecipes

Thursday 11th of March 2021

I love baking soda bread because it's easy, quick and the result is always great. Yours looks fabulous, Pat. angiesrecipes http://angiesrecipes.blogspot.com

Pat Nyswonger

Thursday 11th of March 2021

Thanks, Angie....no wonder it is referred to as a 'quick-bread'. It is delish!

Sam

Wednesday 10th of March 2021

Perfect timing! I was just looking for your Spelt Irish soda bread but will try this one instead. Quick question - can you leave the wheat bran out? It seems I am out of this ingredient. Thank you! Really enjoy all your recipes. :-) Happy St. Pat's!

Pat Nyswonger

Wednesday 10th of March 2021

Hi, Sam....Yes, you can omit the 1/2 cup of bran but decrease the buttermilk by 1/4 cup. I think you will like this bread, thanks for giving it a try and Happy St. Pat's day to you!

John / Kitchen Riffs

Wednesday 10th of March 2021

We like most quick breads, and Irish Soda Bread is one of our favorites. Haven't made it for a couple of years -- time to again, I'd say. :-) Yours looks excellent -- nice recipe. Thanks!

Pat Nyswonger

Wednesday 10th of March 2021

Thanks, John....Happy St. Pat's Day to you! 😊

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