Authentic Irish Soda Bread Recipe

Bake a Great Grandmother's Soda Bread

Photo: Anna Monette Roberts

Many St. Patrick's Days ago when I first started working for POPSUGAR, my colleagues Maggie and Lizzy Eisenberg brought in this Irish soda bread, courtesy of their mother, along with a huge tub of Kerrygold butter. Never in my life had I ever experienced either, so I toasted a slice of the raisiny bread and slapped a generous pat of butter over the top. The butter seeped through the bottom of the warm toast, and the instant I took a bite, I became a Kerrygold convert (here's a story on how deep my love runneth) and a soda bread supporter for life. I distinctly remember returning for seconds and thirds of the comforting bread, soaked in the liquid gold. The memory of that bread lingered for years, and I knew I had to get my hands on the recipe. I reached out to the sisters, and their mother shared the lovely tale of the bread along with the recipe.

Nora O'Sullivan Moran's house in Eyeries, Ireland.Photo: Maggie Eisenberg

Theresa Moran Eisenberg recounted to her daughters in an email, "[The recipe] is Nora O'Sullivan Moran's, your great grandmother's. Remember visiting the little cottage your great great grandfather built? Nora was born in the tiny village of Eyeries on the Beara Peninsula in Southwestern Ireland. My mom, your grandmother Patricia, made it the way the recipe is now written (the closest as she could figure)."

Photo: Anna Monette Roberts

"Grandma Nonie never measured anything exactly and didn't have anything written down. We used to watch her make her Irish bread. She would grab several fistfuls of flour (our mother estimated it was about four cups) and would sprinkle in the baking soda and baking powder by hand. We remember her adding the raisins and caraway seeds, though they may not have always had those on hand when she was a girl in Ireland."

Photo: Anna Monette Roberts

Unlike yeast-based breads, this Irish soda bread comes together quickly and easily. It's an ideal weeknight bread, and if raisins and caraway seeds do not appeal to you, they can easily be left out or substituted for other herbs and dried fruits.

Photo: Anna Monette Roberts

Do not be alarmed if the dough appears quite wet. It will transform into a tall, pillowy loaf after baking.

Photo: Anna Monette Roberts

Once it's out of the oven, let it cool. This is an important step! The gluten proteins need to set, so the bread is fluffy (not gummy) when cut.

Photo: Anna Monette Roberts

Once cool, slice and spread with softened butter. Or toast up and then dollop with butter. Ah, this bread tastes just as good as if an Irish grandmother made it.

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread

Notes

A cast iron skillet is an important part of Nora's recipe, but if you don't have one, use a cake pan, or form the dough into a round shape and bake on a cookie sheet. Keep in mind the cooking time may need to be adjusted. For instance, a 8-inch cake pan may require an additional 30 minutes of baking.

Authentic Irish Soda Bread Recipe

Ingredients

1 tablespoon butter, softened, plus more for pan and for serving
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
1 cup raisins
4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch heavy iron frying pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, blend butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine milk, soda, caraway seeds, and raisins, then stir into sugar mixture.
  4. In a bowl, sift flour, baking powder, and salt, and gradually add to sugar-milk mixture, beating with a wooden spoon, until a wet dough forms.
  5. Turn into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  6. Turn out of pan and cool about 30 minutes before cutting. Slice and serve with butter.
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