I’m not Irish, never been in Ireland, doesn’t have any Irish friend, doesn’t know about Irish culture, but I do know that I love Irish Soda Bread. I can make Irish Soda Bread any day of the year, but for some reason I am also reminded to make it when I start seeing St Patrick’s decoration in the store. Well, in reality I like celebrating different occasion regardless if it is not for my culture. I’m originally from Philippines but I’m not currently living in Canada and in Canada, we celebrate a lot of different cultural festival.
The first time I made Irish Soda Bread, I couldn’t even share it with anyone. I couldn’t even force myself to finish it. The bread was dry and tough, nothing like what I imagined it would be. But then again, I am not Irish and I don’t know how traditional Irish Soda Bread taste like, but I am assuming that it’ snot rock solid, bland and dry. That kitchen disaster drove me to make it again, and to tweak it to make it not just edible but delicious. An Irish Soda Bread that has a nice crunchy shell and a soft moist bread. Last year I shared my first successful Cranberry and Raisins Irish Soda Bread which turned out fantastic. I left the link and photo below, look how lovely it was. This Orange and Cranberry Irish Soda Bread was inspired by that post. I like the combination of Orange and Cranberry so I thought it would be a nice variation for a Soda Bread, and I was right, I couldn’t be happier on how this turned out.
Traditional vs. Non Traditional Irish Soda Bread
I am not a traditionalist, I like making my own version and I love adding twist to food that I make. I encourage myself to be creative, to think out of the box and to make baking activity fun and a creative process. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like classic recipes, I do. Classic recipes are timeless and are foundation to creating something new. Classic recipes and traditional recipes are the basis of most of my own variation, this Irish Soda included. Some people might say that the changes I made for this recipe made it not an Irish Soda anymore, but that’s ok I welcome disagreement, after all we all have different taste and different opinion on food. This is just my own take of how I like my Irish Soda Bread.
Traditional or Classic Irish Soda Bread uses down to very basic ingredients like flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. Then there’s the non-traditional version like this recipe which uses additional ingredients like butter, sugar, egg and dried fruits, almost like a Scone. I’ve made both version several times, I actually started with the traditional version and I never had a luck in getting the texture and taste that I want. It turned out dense no matter how gentle I handled it, it was bland and dry. I don’t know how the traditional or authentic Irish Soda Bread taste like so don’t have anywhere to compare it to, but one thing I know I was not happy with what I had produced so far. I almost decided to give up on it after making it twice, but then I thought I should give it another try. Baking really thought me a lot about being patience and determination. So, I gave it a 3rd try but I did modifications with the hope that I will get it the way I want it. I went for the non-traditional version of adding butter, sugar, egg and dried fruits. Guess what? It worked like magic! The bread turned out perfect more than I could imagine.
What to expect from my version of Irish Soda Bread
This bread at least have the traditional and classic IrishSoda Bread look, the outer shell was crusty and crunchy (just like how I expect it to be). I like the sound it created when I tapped or scratch the surface, it has that crunchy sound. The inside was soft and moist, it’s not a butter as regular scones or biscuit, its more like a bread texture in some way. The amount of dried fruits are just right, it has a nice subtle orange flavor which gave a nice freshness citrus flavor to this bread. It was not sweet at all, but sometimes I add 1 tablespoon of sugar more on days that I like it to be sweeter. My favorite part was the bottom of the bread as well as the outer crust, it has a nice crunch, the texture was amazing, the soft texture of the inside gave a nice contrast to the crunchy texture of the outside. This is my own take on Irish Soda Bread, hopefully you’ll like it too. Now it’s your turn to make it. I hope you will give it a try, and if you do, let me know how it goes.
Tips for a successful Soda Bread
- Measure baking soda properly: The main leavening agent of this bread is the baking soda. Since this is a quick bread, meaning no yeast needed, the baking soda + buttermilk is the key to having a soft crusty and rustic looking bread. Do the spoon level technique when measuring the ingredients. To much baking soda can make the bread taste acidic and can have the tendency to turn the color of your bread “greenish”, we don’t want a green looking rustic bread! SO measure well, and mix well.
- No kneading: This is your opportunity to make a lovely looking rustic bread without kneading and waiting for it to rise, so grab that chance! All this bread needs is gentle mixing and light touch just to form the dough into a disk. Don’t bother making it smooth, we want it to look rustic. The rougher it look, the better.
- Buttermilk vs. milk: Since this bread does not require yeast and long rest period, buttermilk is one of the key ingredients for the bread to have a softer texture. Since buttermilk is acidic, it will react with baking soda helping the bread to rise as it bakes in the oven. I have tried using regular milk, it was ok but it was a little bit dense as compared to using buttermilk. You don’t need to buy whole carton of buttermilk just to make this bread, you can make your own by mixing 1/2 cup milk + 1/2 tsp lemon juice or white vinegar. Let rest for 10-15 minutes or until it starts to curdle.
- Hot and always close oven: Always pre-heat your oven, just like making biscuits, hot oven is a must to have the puff-up and rustic looking bread. Although it is always tempting to open the oven to check the bread, avoid doing that. Closed oven all-through out the baking will create a rustic and lovely brown crust, which is totally worth the wait. Opening the oven will let the steam and heat escape and can deflate the bread.
- Use of add-on ingredients: I suggest that you soak in water and honey whatever dried fruits you are using before adding it to the dry ingredients. Dried fruits have a tendency to absorb moisture of the liquid when added into the mixture. This means that it will compete with the dry ingredients and it could absorb the moisture that is supposed to be for the flour, resulting to a dry soda dough. Soaking it in water will soften the dried fruits and at the same time will make it moist even when it is baked.
There you go, few tips to remember. Let’s put it to use and let’s get started!
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp sugar (If you like it sweeter, add 1 tbsp more)
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp cold butter – cut into cubes
- 2 Large Orange Zest
- 1/4 cup dried cranberry – chopped into small pieces
- 2 tsp orange juice
- 1 egg – refrigerated
- 1/3 cup cold buttermilk (You make also make a buttermilk by mixing 1/3 cup milk + 1 tsp lemon juice or white vinegar. Let sit for 10-15 minutes until it curdles)
- Preheat oven to 375F degrees. Line small cookie sheet with parchment paper or dust iron skillet with flour. Set aside while you make the dough.
- Soak dried fruits: Soak the chopped dried cranberry in orange juice. Set aside while you make the dough. If you don’t want any mix-in, you can skip this step. Drain or remove excess water and pat dry with paper towels before mixing the soaked fruits into the dough.
- Mix dry ingredients: In a medium size bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter with a fork or large cheese grater (or with your fingers) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in cranberry and orange zest.
- Mix wet ingredients: Mix buttermilk and beaten egg.
- Mix wet and dry ingredients: Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, 1 tbsp at a time, I used around 5 tbsp. Use a sturdy spoon to mix the ingredients. There will be left over buttermilk mixture, set it aside for brushing top of the bread.
- Shape the bread: Transfer in a floured surface and using your hands, form it into a disk about 6-inch diameter. DO NOT knead, just gather the dough together to form it. You don’t also need to make the surface smooth, uneven surface if fine. It will look more rustic once baked.
- Mark the bread: Transfer into cookie sheet or cast iron pan. With a sharp knife, cut a 1/4-inch deep cross on top of the dough. Brush top with leftover buttermilk mixture.
- Let it rest: Let sit for 15 minutes in the refrigerator, this will allow the baking soda to react with the buttermilk giving the dough a slight lift but nothing much like a regular yeast bread.You can also wrap it with plastic wrap and leave it overnight in the refrigerator for baking the following day. Fantastic make-ahead freshly baked breakfast.
- Bake it: Bake 25 – 30 minutes, or until dough is just cooked through and the top is a light golden brown.
Serves 2 – 3
Enjoy! If you make this, share and tag me in Instagram #SweetNSpicyLiving. I would like to see your creations too.
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