With a name like Reiley I ought to know how to make a loaf of traditional Irish soda bread. Luckily, I was taught how to make this homemade brown soda bread with buttermilk by the owner of a sweet little pub in southwest Ireland. And it couldn’t be easier. This recipe produces a hearty, crusty loaf in under one hour.
What is whole wheat Irish soda bread?
According to The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread, this type of bread wasn’t invented by the Irish but embraced on the Emerald Isle at a time when yeast could be scarce.
If you’ve never made soda bread before, you might be surprised to learn that this Irish brown bread is a yeast-free, no-knead bread. And because this style of bread is so tasty, not to mention simple, the tradition stuck.
The Soda Bread Society’s website says that historically the most desirable soda bread flour was a highly processed, fluffy flour like the all-purpose flour we use today.
Yet early recipes for the Irish bread published on the site call for “good wheaten meal,” not white flour. And since the easy recipe for soda bread I was taught in Ireland called for a stunningly rich whole wheat flour, I’m inclined to think that this heartier, whole wheat soda bread is truly authentic Irish soda bread.
An easy, 5 ingredient bread recipe
I was surprised to learn just how easy it is to make a hearty, satisfying loaf. If you’ve ever wondered how to make soda bread, you’re going to love this recipe. With just 5 ingredients and no kneading required, you can produce a loaf of warm, crusty bread in less than 60 minutes.
Ingredients needed to make this brown bread recipe
So what do you need to make a crusty loaf of wholemeal Irish soda bread? It just takes 5 inexpensive ingredients:
- Stone ground whole wheat flour (scroll down for tips on sourcing the best stone ground flour)
- All purpose flour
- Baking soda
Sourcing stone ground wheat flour
There’s only one small problem with making this Irish bread recipe. The whole wheat Irish flour is generally a very different product than what you’ll purchase sold as whole wheat flour in an American grocery store.
It took me a few tries to figure out the right soda bread ingredient to replicate the flavorful and nutrition-dense bread I studied in Ireland.
The key to this homemade loaf is sourcing high-quality, stone ground wheat flour. It’s common in Irish grocery stores. But it may take a little searching to find the right flour to make authentic soda bread at home. But the results are worth the effort.
What is stone ground wheat flour?
Stone ground basically refers to how the flour is milled. The Kitchn has a good article on stone ground flour, if you want to go in depth. You can find this type of flour at some health food and specialty grocers.
One of the best I’ve found is Bob’s Red Mill stone ground whole wheat. The Bob’s Red Mill flour is available on Amazon if your local store doesn’t carry it.
Why you need to add all purpose flour to this stone ground bread recipe
You’ll notice that the soda bread recipe incorporates one cup of all purpose flour with the stone ground flour. I tried making the loaf with pure stone ground whole wheat flour but I found the final texture both heavy and dry.
The addition of one-quarter white flour to the soda bread ingredients along with the 3 cups whole wheat flour gives the final loaf a dense but moist consistency. And it still has plenty of earthy, slightly sweet, wholemeal flavor.
Just don’t forget to score the top of the bread. The Irish tradition is to cut a cross into the bread. Although there is plenty of lore around this particular marking, the true reason for making this x is scientific. The shape helps the bread to bake evenly.
How to serve this easy, homemade brown soda bread
This loaf tastes best served warm with hunks of golden, Irish butter.
It is a fantastic treat on its own but soda bread makes a great side for soups and salads. Or serve it on the side with a traditional corned beef dinner.
It’s a little difficult to cut evenly for sandwiches but a slice or two with a hunk of cheese makes a handy snack or meal on the run.
What is Irish butter?
In case you aren’t familiar with Irish butter, it’s basically European butter with a high butterfat content. It typically has a vibrant, golden tone. This coloring comes from the beta-carotene-rich Irish grasses on which the cows are feeding.
I recommend this butter for this particular bread because the creamy smoothness of Irish butter makes an exciting contrast with the bread’s grainy texture.
Slice and toast leftover soda bread and smear it with butter and jam for a quick and comforting breakfast or snack.
Storing leftover Irish brown bread
If you have leftover bread, (I often don’t), just wrap it in plastic wrap and store it on the counter for up to 3 days. You can freeze soda bread but I don’t really like the crumbly texture it develops from freezing.
More great quick breads
If you love making breads at home – particularly no-knead breads – be sure to check out this recipe for Breakfast in Bed Triple Gingerbread. This fun and tasty quick bread recipe is from my first cookbook, Fork Me, Spoon Me.
And don’t miss this Easy, Vegan Banana Bread recipe!
Traditional Irish Brown Soda Bread
- 3 cup stone ground whole wheat flour
- 1 cup white flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 cup buttermilk
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Slowly add the buttermilk, stirring to combine, until you have a sticky dough.
- Knead the dough lightly before transferring to a lightly greased baking sheet.
- Shape the dough into a flattened round. Cut a cross into the top to release the fairies. (I was not aware that fairies live in bread dough but since I was instructed on this key step by an Irish baker, I'm sticking to it!)
- Bake for approximately 40-45 minutes. Bread will be golden on top and offer a hollow sound when tapped when it is fully cooked.
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