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Irish Brown Bread

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A crusty and satisfying Irish brown bread.

Not all soda bread recipes are white flour boules studded with raisins. This traditional Irish brown bread recipe makes a crusty, homey loaf, perfect with a hot cup of tea.

Irish brown bread loaf

Irish Brown Bread: Recipe Notes

I always assumed that Irish soda bread was the white flour variety. The large, crusty, golden ball with the “x” cut through the top, folded with caraway seeds and raisins.

But a trip to Ireland with my mom a few years ago revealed a far different picture of Irish soda bread. Soda bread was ubiquitous — at breakfast, restaurant bread baskets, and bakeries. But rather than a sweet, white flour loaf, we encountered a deliciously rustic whole wheat soda bread, an Irish brown bread baked in a loaf pan, and sliced thick.

You may also enjoy: Irish Soda Bread (Spotted Dog) and High-Rise Buttermilk Biscuits

flour milk and egg with whisk on marble

How is Irish brown bread made?

It took several tries to get this Irish brown bread recipe right. My first attempts, using only whole wheat flour and no egg, resembled something less like bread and more like a large rock that a swarthy Irish longshoreman could throw at another longshoreman’s head in a bar fight. But softening the wheatiness with some white flour, enriching the dough with an egg, and making a couple of other modifications eventually got the bread right where it should be.

This loaf takes minor liberties from the super-plain original; it incorporates flax meal, oats, millet, and raisins. Any of these is optional, but the combination results in a hearty brown loaf that tastes a little more nutty, interesting and sweet than standard brown soda bread. It still retains, however, the traditional thick crust and dense (but not heavy) crumb.

irish whole wheat flour irish flour vs. whole wheat flour in piles on marble

What type of flour to use for your traditional brown soda bread

If you want to go all out, I highly recommend ordering Irish-style wholemeal flour from King Arthur. It has a little less gluten than regular whole wheat, and a more coarse and interesting texture. Regular whole wheat flour will work fine, though — just make sure to include the oatmeal and flax meal to compensate for the texture.

 Irish brown bread recipe

What kind of soda bread do you prefer? Share in the comments, below.

loaf of buttermilk Irish brown soda bread sliced with butter

Irish Brown Soda Bread

A hearty, homey whole wheat soda bread perfect for everyday.
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time40 minutes
Course: Baked Goods, bread
Keywords:: bread, irish, irish soda bread, soda bread
Servings: 1 loaf
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Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons flax meal
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar, light or dark
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup millet (optional)
  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F and lightly grease a loaf pan.
  • In a small mixing bowl, pour warm water over the raisins. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes while you mix the dough, then drain well.
    PRO TIP: Dried fruit will always seek rehydration, so better to soften them with warm water than have them pull moisture from the dough as it bakes and make the bread taste dry.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, baking soda, salt, flax meal, oats, millet, and brown sugar. Stir well with a whisk to combine the ingredients and aerate them.
  • In another bowl, whisk together the egg and buttermilk.
  • Create a well in the center of the dry goods bowl. Add the raisins, millet, egg, and buttermilk mixture to the center. Using your fingers, draw the flour into the center and mix the dough together. Be sure to get the flour on the sides and bottom and mix it well, but do not overmix. The dough should look mostly sticky and combined, but shaggy and in clumps.
  • Sprinkle a little flour on your hands and the top of the dough, then turn the dough out into the loaf pan. Lightly press the dough until it is even in the loaf pan. Brush the top with a little buttermilk.
    PRO TIP: Hand sticky and full of dough? The best way to remove it is to put a generous amount of flour on your hands and rub them together. Then wash.
  • Bake for 10 minutes at 425°F, then lower the temperature to 400°F and bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, until the bottom sounds very hollow when tapped, and the loaf is nicely browned. Let cool a bit before eating.

6 comments

  • Elizabeth

    5 stars
    i am glad to have your recipe. I am Irish and used to make this bread just about every week . Your recipe is, however, better than mine so I will be using it all the time. Thank you so much.

    • Unpeeled

      Oh my goodness! I love that I have a true Irish seal of approval, and thank you so very much for this. Made my day!

  • Jane Newman

    5 stars
    I really liked this bread and how wholesome it tastes. I also mixed in some walnut pieces. Perfect toasted with butter!

  • 4 stars
    homey and baked quickly and easily. mine came out a little dry but the flavor was good.

  • 5 stars
    Hearty and delicious. So good.

    • 5 stars
      This bread has become a serious favorite in our household, particularly as we’ve struggled through this Covid business and are eating breakfast together more often,

4.80 from 5 votes

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