Irish Soda Bread

St. Patrick's Day is as big a holiday in Boston as Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year's Eve. Some businesses even close for the day to allow the city's many Irish and friends-of-the-Irish to celebrate in the annual daylong parade. At Flour we commemorate the special occasion for the whole month of March by offering this quick bread as a popular breakfast treat. Traditionally Irish soda bread can be a bit dry and is meant to be toasted and served with a lot of butter. We make ours with the butter mixed directly into the dough to create a tender crumb, and we flavor it with 100 percent rye flour, caraway seeds, currants, and even more butter. It's richer than the classic--but don't let that stop you from serving it as is tradition, with a side of soft butter.
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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 1 hr 30 min (includes cooling time)
  • Active: 30 min
  • Yield: 1 large loaf or 8 wedges
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Ingredients

2 teaspoons caraway seeds

2 cups (280 grams) rye flour

1/3 cup (70 grams) sugar

1/3 cup (50 grams) dried currants

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup (1 stick or 115 grams) unsalted butter, cold, plus 1 teaspoon at room temperature, for finishing the soda bread

1/3 cup (80 grams) fat-free buttermilk

1/3 cup (80 grams) creme fraiche

1 large egg (about 50 grams), at room temperature

1 large egg yolk (about 20 grams)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and place a rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or butter it lightly, and set it aside.
  2. Place the caraway seeds on a cutting board and sprinkle with a few drops of water to keep them from sliding around. Use a chef's knife to roughly chop the caraway seeds a bit so that they are not all whole seeds. Place the seeds in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the rye flour, sugar, currants, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix on low speed for a few seconds until combined. Cut the butter into 8 to 10 pieces and add it to the flour mixture; paddle for 20 to 30 seconds on low until the butter is somewhat broken down but there are still pieces about the size of grapes.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, creme fraiche, and whole egg until thoroughly mixed. With the mixer running on low, pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture and paddle for another 10 to 15 seconds, until the dough just comes together. There will probably still be a little loose flour at the bottom of the bowl.
  4. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Gather and lift the dough with your hands and turn it over in the bowl so that it starts to pick up the loose flour at the bottom. Turn the dough over several times until all the loose flour is mixed in.
  5. Dump the dough out onto the prepared baking sheet and pat it into an 8-inch circle about 1 inch thick. Whisk the egg yolk lightly in a small bowl with a fork. Use a pastry brush to brush the egg wash evenly over the entire top of the dough. Score the dough into 8 wedges as you would cut a pizza. (At this point the soda bread can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 1 week. Add 5 to 10 minutes to the baking time.)
  6. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, rotating the baking sheet midway through the baking time, until the entire circle of soda bread is golden brown and firm when pressed in the center.
  7. Remove from the oven and immediately smear the butter evenly over the entire top surface. Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then slice the soda bread along the scored lines into wedges and serve.

Cook’s Note

Soda bread is best enjoyed the same day you bake it, but it can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. If you keep it for longer than 1 day, refresh it in a 300 degrees F oven for 4 to 5 minutes. Or you can freeze it, tightly wrapped in plastic, for up to 1 week and reheat it in a 300 degrees F oven for 10 to 12 minutes.

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