Herbed Irish Soda Bread is so quick and easy to make with just a handful of ingredients and is ready in less than 40 minutes.
Whether you are celebrating St. Patrick’s Day or need a slice of deliciously rich bread now, then you’ll love this recipe for Irish Herbed Soda Bread.
This recipe is loosely based off the classic soda bread that most folks probably are fond of and referenced via Jacques Pepin’s Soda Bread Recipe.
It is an herbed soda bread loaf that you can choose to eat with or without an accompanying entree.
When I began to research this recipe, I realized that there are as many variations as there are cooks, so what to do? I took the very best of these ideas and created this quick and easy recipe that anyone can make in under 40 minutes.
Buttermilk vs Milk
To start, let’s talk about milk.
The classic Irish recipe uses buttermilk. If you have it, then by all means use it. If you don’t, don’t despair.
For me, I like the idea of using milk, whole organic milk—to be exact—because I don’t always have buttermilk on hand, nor do I like the taste of vinegar-milk or lemon-milk—which is how you arrive at a buttermilk substitute.
And, yes, in case you were wondering, you can get great results using milk instead of buttermilk.
Through my online research, I saw that there were a number of complaints about the milk-vinegar or milk-lemon mixture, so why use an inferior ingredient. You want the best results, right?
So the long and short of this quandary is this: if you have buttermilk, definitely use it. You’ll use the same amount as you would milk in the recipe below. If you don’t, then use whole milk. Both options will give you great results.
Baking Soda vs Baking Powder
The other change that I chose to make in difference to the classic soda bread recipe is the use of baking powder. Now, before you get all hung up on the lack of authenticity, keep in mind that baking powder does include baking soda, so in reality, you’re not THAT far away from Galloway—if you use it.
That being said, my preference is using the duo: baking powder and baking soda especially for this recipe. Together they work magnificently on giving rise to a soda bread that offers both a crunchy outer crust and a soft inner crumb.
Jacques Pepin explained in his recipe anecdote that when you use baking powder, this gives the dough the acidity it needs to rise, especially when you use whole milk.
RELATED: The History of Soda Bread
Plain vs Herbed Soda Bread
Okay, so now I’ve got you using whole milk, baking soda and baking powder—and herbs? Yes!
You’d be amazed at how delicious and flavorful Irish Soda Bread tastes when herbs are introduced to the dough.
For this recipe you’ll need some dried dill, a bit of smoky paprika, cayenne pepper, along with garlic salt.
My suggestion is to first make a loaf using the amounts listed in the recipe below and then tweak it according to your tastes. I like to err on not making it too spicy, otherwise, it might be too overpowering.
DID YOU KNOW? You can enjoy this soda bread sans herbs if you’d like. Make the recipe below without adding any herbs and spice but be sure to use salt. That’s essential for the dough to rise. And, then simply follow the rest of recipe and you’re good to go.
That’s the beauty of this recipe. If you want to be inventive try out some of your favorite spice mix blends. It’s easy to mix and match herbs and spices, without interfering with the integrity of the classic recipe.
Just make it your own with the ingredients you have on hand. And, that’s no blarney.
RELATED: Homemade Wheat Bread
To Knead or Not to Knead
Irish Soda Bread is not your average French or Italian bread that needs kneading.
This is a quick bread that requires that the ingredients are combined first with a spoon and then gently kneaded few times with your hands. But that is all.
Once you see that the herbs are incorporated into the dough, stop. This is because if you do too much kneading, the loaf end up being tough.
Instead, err on the side of less is best and your loaf won’t fail. For me, I just knead it a couple of times to work the dough into a round loaf and I’m done. And, as long as I have made this recipe, I’ve never had a tough loaf yet.
Cooking Tip: Remember this same technique when you make homemade scones. They will always come out light and airy.
RELATED: Homemade Lemon Scones
Cross or No Cross
Now here’s an important step: crossing the loaf. This task is both a tradition and a must.
Ask any cook in Ireland, and they will tell you that the tradition of “crossing the loaf”, which is basically making two cuts perpendicular to one another, is meant to help keep the Devil out.
They will also suggest to prick the four corners. This is to help the fairies get out of the dough.
While there might be some truth in the above, the culinary act of cutting or slicing into the dough, like you would a French or Italian loaf, is meant to help the steam escape while allowing the loaf to rise.
The result is a divine outer crust and an amazingly soft inner crumb.
RELATED: Secrets of Soda Bread Masters
Floured Top or Sans Flour Top
Traditionalists will do one or both: flour the baking sheet before placing the uncooked loaf on it and/or sprinkling the top with a touch of flour.
For me, I’m more of a loaf-purist and like the taste of an unfloured loaf. In truth, the flour isn’t a must, so if you skip this like I do in my recipe, it’s not a deal breaker.
But you will need to prep the baking sheet. To do this: add some olive oil to the baking sheet evenly before placing the newly formed loaf on it. This helps alleviate sticking and gives the base of the loaf a nice browning effect.
Hard Crust vs Soft Crust
I prefer a hard crust, so I don’t wrap a tea cloth around the baked loaf once it comes out of the oven, like some diehard soft crust connoisseurs suggest.
From my experience, I find that a hard crust makes it very easy to cut with a serrated knife.
Even so, you will need to allow the loaf to cool at least 10 minutes after it’s been taken out of the oven before you think about slicing it. And, yes, it will still be warm enough to melt butter.
If you don’t wait some time before you slice it, you risk breaking the loaf into chunks when you cut it. Now that’s not really a problem, but for soda bread enthusiasts, a well sliced loaf is worth the wait.
What you’ll love about this recipe is that it tastes delicious on its own or alongside an Irish-inspired entree like this recipe for Cabbage Sausage and Potato Soup.
So what are you waiting for? Give this Herbed Irish Soda Bread recipe a try. You won’t be disappointed. Enjoy!
For more delicious bread and muffin recipes like this Irish Herbed Soda Bread, be sure to check out Wisconsin Homemaker’s Recipe Section.
Herbed Irish Soda Bread
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp dill dry
- 1/2 tsp garlic salt
- 1/4 tsp Spanish Smoky Paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- Extra virgin olive oil enough to grease baking sheet
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the olive oil.
- Mix gently first with a spoon and then do a few quick kneads with your hands to help combine the ingredients and form it into a round loaf.
- Prepare the baking sheet with a thin coating of extra virgin olive oil. Place the loaf on the baking pan.
- Using a knife, make two slits like a cross on the top of the loaf. You don’t have to go too deep just about 1/2 inch. And, prick the four corners. This will release the steam during baking and allow the loaf to rise and form a delicious crust.
- Place in the oven and bake for approximately 30-35 minutes or until the outer crust is golden brown and firm to the touch. Remove.
- Let cool for at least 10 minutes.
- Be sure to use a sharp serrated knife when ready to slice and serve. Enjoy!