Traditional Irish Brown Bread Recipe – The Bossy Kitchen (2024)

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This traditional Irish brown bread is an easy soda bread recipe made with whole wheat flour, oats, and molasses.

Traditional Irish Brown Bread Recipe – The Bossy Kitchen (1)
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  • What is soda bread?
  • How to handle soda bread dough
  • What flour can be used?
  • Ingredients
  • How to make
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I recently visited Dublin, Ireland, for the first time. I fell in love with the city, the climate, and the excellent food, especially the bread. Like all the rest of the European countries, Ireland loves its bread.

During my visit to Dublin, I tried multiple types of bread, from classic white soda bread to bread made with beer, molasses (or treacle- as they call it there), oats, or seeds.

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All these breads were fabulous, and I have to say that my addiction to bread went crazy while visiting this old city.

I came back home ready to try some of these breads. If you are shy about making bread at home, you are not alone. Making bread, especially with yeast, could be pretty intimidating. For that reason, starting with simple bread, like Irish soda bread, might inspire you to try some more diverse recipes.

Baking is one of the most satisfying types of cooking there is. It fills the house with comforting aromas and the anticipation of wholesome and delicious baked treats.

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Something about baking is very therapeutic, from kneading dough to making a loaf of bread, making a cake for a special occasion, or working on a batch of favorite cookies.

You can try this activity with children from a young age, even if it means a lot of mess in the kitchen afterward.

I encourage you to take the time to enjoy the simplest pleasures of baking an apple cake or soda bread in the knowledge that generations have been using these recipes before you.

What is soda bread?

Soda bread is distinctly Irish bread made with flour, usually buttermilk and baking soda instead of yeast. In the US, this bread is also sometimes called "quick bread."

Irish soda bread, traditionally baked over an open fire and served hot or cold with sweet butter and jam, is a biscuit-like loaf that you can see on most breakfast and tea tables in Ireland.

The Irish baking tradition is an old one, as you can imagine. Irish bread, in general, is hearty, substantial, and absolutely delicious. As we have come to know, in the United States, a typical Irish soda bread contains raisins or dried currants and caraway seeds.

These additions were not the norm in old Ireland unless it was a special occasion, as they would have been costly and out of reach for a peasant farmer.

However, the Irish traditions of shaping the loaves round, dusting them heavily with flour, and cutting a cross deep into the top of them, seem to go back to the early days, when the breads were often baked in iron skillets or deep Dutch ovens.

Today, we bake these breads on trays inside modern ovens that provide controlled heat for a perfect result.

How to handle soda bread dough

Do not be tempted to knead the soda bread made with baking powder or baking soda the same way you would knead yeast bread. Too much handling causes the bread to toughen.

The process should not take more than a few minutes from the time you add the buttermilk to the time you put it in the oven- any longer, and the action of the baking soda is lost.

What flour can be used?

A half-and-half mixture of whole wheat flour and white flour works the best, but hundreds of recipes out there also call for rye, oats or spelt, and even beer.

I like using whole wheat flour over white flour because it is a healthier option. In Ireland, you will find different types of flour that you can use, but we are not going to talk about that as we live in the US and have different kinds of products here.

Ingredients

  • All-purpose flour
  • Whole wheat flour - is healthier and with a lower glycemic index
  • Rolled oats - for texture
  • Salt
  • Baking soda - for rising
  • Buttermilk
  • Molasses (black treacle) - brings a little bit of sweetness and color to the bread.

How to make

First of all, you will need to preheat the oven to 450F. Yes, it is hot, but we will bake this bread only for 15 minutes at this temperature, and then we will lower it to 400F. Stay with me, please.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, salt, and baking soda. We will mix the dry ingredients first, then add the liquid over.

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Mix thoroughly.

Make a little well in the middle of the flour and add the buttermilk and molasses.

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Using a fork, stir the liquid, gradually bringing the flour in from around the edge.

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With floured hands, lightly knead to a soft dough.Shape the dough into a round and place it on the parchment paper.

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Press the dough flat about two inches/5cm thick. Use a sharp knife with a long blade to cut a deep cross on the top.

Why do we have to cut a cross on top of the soda bread?

Traditionally, a deep cross is cut into the top of the soda bread, giving it its distinctive appearance. Mothers used to tell their children that the cross allowed the fairies to escape.

I actually saw a cooking show on TV from Ireland the other day where the baker was making soda bread with Paul Hollywood, and she was explaining the same thing while she was making the cross on top of her bread.

The real purpose of the cross is actually to allow the steam to escape during baking, producing a lighter textured bread.

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Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 400F/200C.

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Continue baking the bread for another 20-25 minutes or until the base of the bread sounds hollow when tapped.

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Transfer to a wire rack and allow it to cool slightly. Serve it with good Irish butter and jam or honey next to a cup of tea/coffee.

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I could not be patient enough to cut the bread cool, so I slapped some butter on it and ate it right away. The butter was melting fast and furious, greasing my fingers.

I have no words to describe to you how good this bread is. With butter. And no, I do not feel any guilt, just pleasure!

I actually saw three types of bread served as a starter at this Gallagher'sBoxty House restaurant in Dublin. I mean, people are ordering slices of warm bread and a bunch of butter and eating them while drinking beer!

I think we should adopt this tradition as long as we make these breads from scratch with good, honest ingredients. You should try it for St. Patrick's Day!

Anyway, enjoy the bread you made so easily, and feel free to write a comment at the bottom of this article to let me know what you think.

Are you also interested in baking more with buttermilk and baking soda? This article about baking with buttermilk will just help you do that.

How about a recipe for Beer Bread, for example, very popular in Minnesota? Or this Easy Savory Cheese Bread?

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No Yeast Bread (soda bread with 4 ingredients)

American-Irish Soda Bread

📖 Recipe

Traditional Irish Brown Bread Recipe – The Bossy Kitchen (12)

Irish Brown Soda Bread With Molasses

Irish Brown Soda Bread With Molasses is an easy Irish traditional bread that is made with whole wheat flour, oats and buttermilk.

4.54 from 28 votes

Print Pin Rate

Course: Breads

Cuisine: British/Irish/Scottish

Prep Time: 20 minutes minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes minutes

Total Time: 1 hour hour

Servings: 16 servings

Calories: 140kcal

Author: Gabriela

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour plus extra for dusting
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ⅔ cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons molasses black treacle

US Customary - Metric

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 450F/230C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.

  • In a large bowl, combine the flours, oats, salt and baking soda. Mix throughly.

  • Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in the buttermilk and molasses.

  • Using a fork, stir the liquid, gradually bringing the flour in from around the edge.

  • With floured hands lightly knead to a soft dough.

  • Shape the dough into a round and place it on the parchment paper. Press the dough flat about 2 inches/5cm thick. Use a sharp knife with a long blade to cut a deep cross on the top.

  • Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 400F/200C.

  • Continue baking the bread for another 20-25 minutes or until the base of the bread sounds hollow when tapped.

  • Transfer to a wire rack and allow it to cool slightly. Serve warm.

Video

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 140kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 314mg | Potassium: 151mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 43IU | Calcium: 43mg | Iron: 2mg

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Traditional Irish Brown Bread Recipe – The Bossy Kitchen (2024)

FAQs

What is the difference between Irish soda bread and Irish brown bread? ›

However, the two loaves differ pretty significantly from there. Irish brown bread has a deep, nutty flavor because of its wheat flour and wheat bran while soda bread uses only white flour. Soda bread is slightly sweet and more scone-like while Irish brown bread is more savory with a tender interior.

Why is my Irish brown bread crumbly? ›

Your Bread Has Too Much Flour

Adding too much flour is one common mistake for beginning bakers. This produces dry bread with more crumbs. The key is to find a balance between the flour and liquid ingredients in your recipe.

What is the key ingredient in Irish soda bread that makes it different from other breads? ›

Irish soda bread is prepared without yeast. Traditionally it has just four ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. The baking soda and buttermilk react to cause the dough to rise.

What makes brown bread brown? ›

The beautiful brown colour comes from using brown sugar instead of white sugar and the addition of molasses. Molasses is such an incredible ingredient and gives that loaf of bread a lovely, deep flavour.

Why do Irish bread bakers use baking soda? ›

The Irishmen learned to adapt to this climate by growing soft wheat that is lower in gluten. The type of flour from this wheat is not compatible with the yeast to make the dough rise; thus, they use baking soda instead to make the famed Irish Soda Bread.

Why is my brown bread so dense? ›

The reason why whole wheat loaves end up so dense is because whole wheat flour has very little gluten as compared to white all-purpose flour. Gluten is important for giving the dough – and final loaves – structure. Without it, loaves tend to end up flat and dense.

What is the white stuff on my brown bread? ›

Rest assured, the white residue on bread is completely safe to consume. It is a natural occurrence and does not indicate spoilage or contamination. In fact, it is a sign that the bread is fresh and has not been overly processed.

How do you make homemade bread not crumbly? ›

So you need to make sure your dough is kept moist enough. Don't sprinkle the surface with flour when kneading – it will absorb the water in your dough and dry it out. Use a little olive oil if the dough is very sticky and hard to handle, and knead with wet hands.

Can you leave soda bread dough overnight? ›

You don't have to wait hours or overnight for a rise, either. In fact, you don't even need to wait at all: Dough for Irish soda bread can go right into the oven after making.

What do Irish people call soda bread? ›

In Ulster, the wholemeal variety is usually known as wheaten bread and is normally sweetened, while the term "soda bread" is restricted to the white savoury form. In the southern provinces of Ireland, the wholemeal variety is usually known as brown bread and is almost identical to the Ulster wheaten.

Why do you put a cross in Irish Soda Bread? ›

The Southern Irish regions bake their loaves in a classic round fashion and cut a cross on top of the bread. This was done for superstitious reasons, as families believed a cross on top of the bread would let the fairies out or ward off evil and protect the household.

Do people in Ireland eat Irish Soda Bread? ›

Ireland, for one, has embraced it's kind of bread – the soda bread. It is a basic staple among the Irish that they call it Irish Soda Bread. It's common to see the locals pair this famous bread with a bottle of Guinness too.

What kind of flour is used in brown bread? ›

Brown bread is made with wheat flour. Brown bread retains the germ and bran of wheat flour. This simple brown-coloured bread is made using wheat flour, water, salt, sugar, and yeast.

Is it OK to eat brown bread everyday? ›

Yes, you can eat brown bread every day, just don't overdo it. You can eat 4-4.5 slices of brown bread without worrying about your health. The fibre, vitamins, and minerals in brown bread make it a healthy choice. It regulates bowel movements, lowers cholesterol levels, and keeps blood sugar levels under control.

What is special about Irish soda bread? ›

Irish Soda Bread is a quick bread that does not require any yeast. Instead, all of its leavening comes from baking soda and buttermilk. This Irish soda bread recipe is my grandmother's and has been cherished in my family for years. It's dense, yet soft and has the most incredible crusty exterior.

What is another name for Irish soda bread? ›

Irish soda bread has a couple of other names, too: When we attended a class at the famous Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork, Ireland, they made this loaf and called it a Spotted Dog. It's also called white soda bread, American Irish soda bread, or fruit soda bread.

Is brown soda bread better than white bread? ›

Most people believe brown bread, otherwise known as wholemeal or whole-wheat bread, is better for our health than white. And according to most nutritionists, you'd be correct. Wholegrain products contain more fibre and nutrients than their white counterparts.

What is the most popular bread in Ireland? ›

Most Irishmen and women eat Irish brown bread for breakfast or lunch. It's best served simple, with a pad of Kerrygold butter or used as a dunker with soup.

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