A crusty Irish soda bread generously dotted with raisins.
Most people make Irish soda bread with raisins around St. Patrick’s Day. But in truth, this bread should be baked all year ’round. Soda bread does not use yeast. Its leavening comes from baking soda and buttermilk, resulting in a crusty, tender risen loaf that is still satisfyingly dense, yet not at all heavy.
This Irish soda bread recipe is just this side of sweet — not so sweet that it can be mistaken for a gigantic scone, but not so plain that it seems like normal bread. The crust is hearty and thick, but the bread inside tastes tender and light with a good amount of raisins for extra flavor and interest. Enjoy it with butter, jam, and a strong cup of Irish tea.
- Be sure to soak the golden raisins (the “spots”) in warm water for 10 or 15 minutes before using them in the dough. Dried fruit will always seek rehydration, so better to soften them with water than have them pull moisture from the dough as it bakes and make the bread taste dry.
- Do not overwork the dough. It should still be shaggy and lumpy when you turn it out from the bowl and shape it into a ball. If the dough is a tight ball, you overworked it.
- Be sure to let the fairies out! Yes, this is an actual thing you have to do. After you have formed the ball of dough, slice lines across, then across again to form a deep “x.”
Soda bread will keep for a couple of days, but tastes best fresh on the first day. Let it cool a bit before you slice and slather it with good Irish butter.
You may also enjoy: High-Rise Buttermilk Biscuits and Irish Brown Soda Bread
What St. Patrick’s Day food traditions do you enjoy? Share in the comments.
Irish Soda Bread (Spotted Dog)
- 4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 cup golden raisins or sultanas
- 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
- 1 egg
- Preheat the oven to 425°F and lightly grease a half-sheet 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.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Stir well with a whisk to combine the ingredients and aerate them.
- In another bowl, whisk together the egg and buttermilk.
- Using your fingers, cut the butter into the dry goods bowl until the butter is the size of small peas.
- Create a well in the center of the dry goods. Add the raisins and the 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 onto the sheet pan. Shape it into a domed mound. You want the shape to be rounded more than flattened. 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.
- With a sharp knife, let the fairies out by cutting a deep cross into the dough. Brush the top with a bit of buttermilk. Sprinkle a little demerara sugar on top, if you like.
- Bake for 10 minutes at 425°F, then lower the temperature to 400°F and bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes, until the bottom sounds very hollow when tapped, and everything is a lovely golden brown.