Hearty whole wheat? Tender, oversized scone? Either way, it’s delicious.
Everyone loves St. Patrick’s Day. Everyone gets to be Irish (because everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day), and people bake lots of soda bread. Why soda bread only appears once a year, since the Irish eat it all year long, is anyone’s guess. But if you only make soda bread once per year, make it good.
People often debate what constitutes “authentic” Irish soda bread: Can it taste sweet? Should it be whole wheat? Is caraway seed American or Irish? There is even a Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread, where once can tumble down a rabbit hole of soda bread arcana. Personally, I am content just to eat it — as long as it tastes fresh, dense, and soft, with a thick, crusty exterior and just enough flavor to keep it from being bland.
Two Recipes for Irish Soda Bread
This first recipe for Irish soda bread, White Soda Bread (Spotted Dog), is made with white flour and studded with lots of golden raisins. The dough tastes just sweet enough, and is made simply, with only white flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, egg, and buttermilk. “Spotted Dog” is the name for a white soda bread with raisins enriched with sugar and egg.
The second Irish soda bread recipe is Brown Soda Bread. Most soda bread served in Ireland — and it is served everywhere — actually is a whole wheat variety. This recipe makes a tender, hearty, and homey loaf. Feel free to omit the raisins and millet, but I think they give the bread a lot more interest.
Both breads start in a hot, 425-degree oven. The temperature then gets lowered to 400 degrees. The hot oven gives it a nice initial rise, and helps the bread form a nice, brown crust. Wait until the soda bread cools a bit, then slice and serve with good Irish butter and jam. The bread keeps for a day or two, but tastes best the day it is baked.