This is a bread with no yeast that comes together in 10 minutes and can be on the table in under an hour. The crust bakes to a golden brown and you can cut it while still warm. Slightly sweet and buttery, it's a cousin to our traditional Irish soda bread, a family recipe.
This is the sweeter version of my popular 4-ingredient soda bread that went viral last year, a heritage recipe that hails from my very Irish great-grandmother. So now you have two options to bake for St. Patrick's Day.
But a twist with raisins was needed as it's such a crowd-pleaser. I have to report that this recipe today is phenomenal, even better for breakfast than the one mentioned above. I'm glad my ascendant is not around to read this.
I'm hesitant to label it a quick bread because the term usually refers to sweet ones made in a loaf pan, but it is, one of those bread recipes that makes your meal planning easier.
About this bread
- Easy to make: this type of no-yeast bread comes together in minutes, literally, is out of the oven in 45 minutes, and you don't have to wait until it's completely cooled down to cut it. A winning situation from every angle if you ask me.
- Great for breakfast: it has a slight sweetness, so eating it toasted with butter and honey or jam in the morning is recommended. Such a delicious recipe!
- Freezing: you can keep it sliced and frozen for when you crave a warm or toasted piece. It keeps for a month.
- Add-ins: besides raisins, you can add caraway seeds, or a touch of cinnamon, citrus zest or even dried cranberries.
This recipe needs 7 simple ingredients, most of which I imagine you have at home right now.
- Raisins: use any type (currants, dark raisins, golden raisins) but make sure they're seedless.
- Baking soda: the most relevant ingredient in this recipe that is used to make the bread rise during baking. Make sure it's fresh and active.
- Buttermilk: it's a key ingredient for this recipe to counteract the metallic taste of baking soda. You can buy it or make your own (see Recipe Notes) at the end of this post.
- Butter: you can use salted or unsalted (my choice). If using the former, reduce the amount of salt given in the recipe.
- Flour: this bread turns out great with all-purpose flour, but bread flour can also be used. I sometimes mix cake flour with bread flour for a texture that is rustic but with a soft edge.
- Salt: I use kosher salt for my baking, but table salt also works.
- Sugar: regular white, granulated sugar.
How to make soda bread
This easy bread is similar to a giant scone with less fat (butter) and more liquid (buttermilk). And the technique is pretty much the same.
- Stir the dry ingredients in a large bowl and scatter the cold butter pieces on top.
- Work the butter into the flour mixture until it's roughly the size of peas. You can use your hands or the dough blender (or pastry cutter).
- Add the raisins and mix until they're coated in flour.
- Pour almost all of the buttermilk, leaving a few tablespoons in case of adjustments.
- Mix until no dry spots remain but do not beat.
- Transfer to a floured surface, it will be soft. Dust flour on top of the dough.
- Working quickly, fold the dough onto itself a few times until you can form a ball.
- Make a cross with a kitchen knife on top of the loaf cutting half an inch deep, no more.
- Organization: always read the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients, at the right temperatures, and also the rest of the equipment and space to make it. This will make the process so much easier!
- Baking time: keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer that is placed inside the oven (like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
- Cold ingredients: this is essential to make this bread work. So keep butter and buttermilk in the refrigerator until the last minute. I put the butter pieces in the freezer five minutes before adding them to the flour and sometimes the mixing bowl too.
- Light touch: don't over work the dough when you're forming the ball and don't knead it, at all as that will result in a tough bread. It should have a rustic look both before and after going into the oven.
- Hot oven: since this recipe uses only baking soda as a leavener, it needs a hot oven in the beginning for that initial burst. Then the oven temperature needs to be lowered in order to let the interior bake fully.
Frequently asked questions
Traditional recipes from Ireland don't add them. This slightly sweeter version, which sometimes includes caraway seeds, is more of an Irish-American variation and it's quite popular. And very tasty.
Warm or toasted for breakfast with butter (and jam or honey) is a favorite way. If you like sweeter bread to eat with stews and soups, this is an easy and delicious one.
The absence of yeast and the fact that it uses only baking soda as a leavening (to make it rise) sets this bread apart. It should always be made with buttermilk or some other acidic ingredient to counteract the metallic flavor of the soda.
Related recipes you might like:
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- 4 cups flour
- 1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 ¾ cups buttermilk
- ¾ cup seedless raisins or currants
- Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C.
- Have ready a baking sheet dusted with flour.
- Stir together flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. It's important to sift the baking soda as it can get clumpy and it won't dissolve during baking.
- Scatter the cold butter pieces on top of the flour mixture and work them into it. You can use your hands or a pastry cutter. The butter should be roughly the size of peas. Don't overwork it, you want the butter to remain as cold as possible.
- Add the raisins and mix to incorporate them.
- Add the buttermilk and mix with a wooden spoon until it's all moistened. This should be quick, several strokes and that's it. We don't want to overwork the dough. If it's not enough liquid add a tablespoon or two more. If in doubt, use a tablespoon more than less. If the dough doesn't have enough liquid it will crumble too much when you cut it. (Flour absorbs liquid differently depending on the type, the weather, etc. That's why we don't add the whole amount of buttermilk at once).
- Flour the counter and dump this shaggy mass.
- Sprinkle the top of the dough with extra flour and bring it all together, folding it quickly onto itself a few times, and forming it into a loose, rustic ball. It will be uneven. Don't be tempted to make it into a smooth ball, it's meant to be rustic and a bit flabby.
- Place it on the prepared pan (I help myself with a spatula or dough scraper).
- Slash the top of the bread with a sharp knife, making a cross pattern, cutting it about half-inch deep at most, and immediately put the pan in the oven. Baking soda starts acting when you add liquid, so you want to start baking the bread as soon as possible.
- Bake for 10 minutes and turn the oven temperature down to 350°F/180°C.
- Continue baking for 35 to 40 more minutes, until it's golden and firm to the touch. You can open it slightly, carefully lifting the top with a fork, and make sure it's completely baked inside because it turns golden after 20-30 minutes but, usually, the crumb inside is still raw, so make sure. If it's browning too quickly cover the top with a piece of aluminum paper and keep baking it (I do this at about 25 minutes). Also, turn the bread over and tap the bottom with your knuckles, it should make a hollow sound when fully baked.
- Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before slicing.
- Eat warm or at room temperature. It's best eaten the same day it's baked (first few hours preferably).
- Freeze it sliced and well wrapped (first in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil) or in an airtight container and use it for morning toast.
Organization: always read the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients, at the right temperatures, and also the rest of the equipment and space to make it. This will make the process so much easier!
Baking time: keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer that is placed inside the oven (like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
Cold ingredients: this is essential to make this bread work. So keep butter and buttermilk in the refrigerator until the last minute. I put the butter pieces in the freezer five minutes before adding them to the flour and sometimes the mixing bowl too.
Light touch: don't overwork the dough when you're forming the ball and don't knead it, at all, as that will result in a tough bread. It should have a rustic look both before and after going into the oven.
Hot oven: since this recipe uses only baking soda as a leavening, it needs a hot oven in the beginning for that initial burst. Then the oven temperature needs to be lowered in order to let the interior bake fully.
Homemade buttermilk: if you can't access store-bought, you can easily make your own: simply add a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice or white vinegar to a cup and then add whole milk. Stir, wait 5 minutes when it will curdle or thicken, and there you have your buttermilk. Keep refrigerated.
Flour: you can use all white flour or you can substitute 1 cup of whole wheat flour for some of the all-purpose flour.
Caraway seeds: this is another traditional add-in for this type of bread. They hint of anise or licorice with a sharp peppery flavor. I sometimes add a teaspoon together with the raisins, but it's not a flavor for everyone.
Pan: I always use a regular baking sheet, but you can use a cast-iron skillet or round cake pan to make this easy soda bread recipe.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Category: Bread
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: International
Keywords: Raisin Irish soda bread