I have been making (and eating) Irish Soda Bread for as long as I can remember. I remember it being available from time to time in my house growing up and I remember my Grammy making it when I was a kid as well. I am not sure if I ever helped her make it or not, I would like to think that I did.
It seemed that every get together had some version of Irish Soda Bread floating around that either a relative or friend of the family brought. It wasn’t until my 2nd cousin Rosanne came for a visit to my Grammy’s (after she had married and moved to Boston) that I tasted the one Sweet Irish Soda Bread that I had to have over and over!
At family gatherings, I ate the obligatory slice. To my developing palate, the bread was dry and not that flavorful…so I would pile on the butter – after all butter like bacon, makes everything better lol! But THAT bread….the one made by Roseann’s Italian husbands mother – That bread, was one to remember! It was almost cake-like. Sweet and light and all I knew was that I wanted more…I needed more!! So, after I polished off about 4 slices, I soon tinkered and tinkered until I replicated it and have been making it that way ever since!
One recent tweak I made to the recipe was to add in some heavy cream to the dough. I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon with the incredible Darina Allen and she said here in the US (as compared to Ireland) our milk/buttermilk does not have enough fat in it to replicate Irish baking correctly – she said to “always add cream to any type of soda bread”. I love the update to my recipe. Another thing Darina said was to “always let the faeries out” by making a cross or an “x” over top your dough before it heads into the oven. I have always done that – but hearing someone else say it made me really happy!
Can you see in the above photo, how much more moist the actual bread looks than what you might typically come across?? And the sugar on the top? Oh yeah THAT right there is my Sweet Irish Soda Bread! Let me tell you…there is almost nothing on this earth as good as a slice of this just out of the oven, almost too hot to handle, smeared with butter (Especially Kerrygold Butter). Goodness!! If you ever need a Calgon moment and you don’t feel like getting wet to do it….make this and a cup of tea, then sit with a good book…Ahhhh… You are welcome!
If you are feeling festive and looking for additional ideas for St Patty’s Day, check out my Disappearing Leprechaun Cookies, these super-fun Marshmallow St Patrick’s Day Treats or my Car-Bomb Brownie Bites that many of my husbands buddies beg me to make…all-year-long! And if you enjoy Bailey’s Irish Cream…make your own. All it takes are 6 ingredients and 5 minutes and you will never buy it again! You can also make Boozy Irish Cream & Oreo Shakes with it!
Sweet Irish Soda Bread with Raisins
4 1/2 cups of flour
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 1/2 cups raisins
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 large egg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
To make 1 large loaf, use a 10-12 inch cast iron pan or ovenproof skillet with 2-inch or better sides or to make 2 loaves use 2 smaller cast iron skillets, oven proof pans or 2 cake pans.
Cut a big enough circle of parchment paper out to line both the bottom and the sides of your pan(s).
Whisk the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl until blended, add in the butter and raisins and stir well.
Add buttermilk, heavy cream and egg to the dry ingredients and stir until incorporated – do not over mix.
Pour mixture into pan(s) and cook for one hour or until toothpick or skewer inserted comes out dry. For smaller loaves, check after 45 minutes, however most likely it will take an hour to bake. Once a wooden skewer inserted comes out not “wet” it is done. Cool a bit then flip out of the pan(s), peel off parchment paper and allow the bead to cool on a cooling rack, that is if you don’t just dig right in like my family and I do!
Since this recipe yields a large loaf, often when I am making this for someone, I set aside 25-30% of the batter to make my family a small one….which we eat almost instantly! Depending on it’s size I start checking the smaller loaf after 35 minutes or so – the large one usually still takes an hour.
This is wonderful for days after you make it as long as you have had it wrapped up tight. just pop a slice in the microwave for 20-30 seconds to warm it through and smear it with butter.
You do not have to use the heavy cream…you can actually use 2 1/2 cups of buttermilk if you choose. I was lucky enough to spend some time last year with Darina Allen (Ireland’s long-time favorite chef and owner of the world famous Ballymaloe Cookery School and Restaurant) and she mentioned to me that U.S. milk is does not have enough fat content to do Irish scones the way they do in Ireland…since then I have taken to adding some heavy cream to both scones and this bread and I really like the result. Thanks Darina!!
Enjoy this…it’s one of my favorite recipes!