3 Irish Soda Breads

Irish soda bread today looks nothing like what my great-grandfather probably ate. He would probably find our version just as puzzling and unappetizing as I’d find his. I’ve come around on soda breads. Take out the caraway seeds, use some raisins post-Nixon administration and put in a healthy slug of buttermilk and you have youself a decent treat. Not something you might make everyday, or even once a month, but something worth making once a year to help your stomach acid staunch the copious flow of corned beef and Guiness during that mid-March holiday.


Cook's Illustrated version

Given my preference not to eat something that resembles a mudbrick and frequently tastes only slightly better (I was a mudbrick connousieur from the ages of two till six), I am of course married to someone that loves my heritage’s culinary anchor on our palettes. Could I find a recipe for this annual treat that made us both happy?

Cook’s Illustrated
The Cook’s Illustrated one was the one that tasted most like soda bread, or at least most like what my taste buds have come to expect from soda bread. Easy to make with an easy to handle dough this one was dense, crumbly and most closely resembled a scone. This could be eaten as a morning treat or a nighttime snack. Toast lightly and add butter, honey, or jam. 

Bittman’s How to Cook Everything

Bittman's bread-y bread
Bittman’s bread-y bread

If the Cook’s Illustrated version was the most scone-like, Bittman’s quick bread was as close to bread as I think you could get without using yeast. Not to say that this was bad, but you really had to squint to recognize it as soda bread. A distant relative, but not unwelcome. This less savory baked good is the one that I could see serving along side the corned beef and cabbage.

You might also like:  BA's Apple Cider Donut Loaf Cake

Epicurious.com/Bon Appetit
The last one I tried was inspired by an article on epicurious.com with Irish chef Rory O’Connell. I tried the Irish-American version and omitted the caraway seeds. First off, this recipe makes a lot of soda bread. It just barely fit the 10 inch skillet and I’d recommend going with the 12-inch if available to make your life easier. Second, it’s diametrically opposed to the Bittman version. This one was less bread or scone and much more cake-like. I didn’t even use all the sugar called for and it was still pretty sweet. This would best be served with the Irish coffee after the meal, rather than alongside the main course.

Sweet, savory cake
Sweet, savory cake

So, three different recipes, three very different results. One expanding waistline. Ultimately, I think we’ll stick with the Cook’s Illustrated version, but I could see pulling these other two out on occasion to change things up or share with visitors.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *