March is the month for Irish whiskey, coffee, St.Patty’s day, Irish mash, and… Irish soda bread? This bread was everywhere in Amsterdam when I visited, and it got me wondering what is in this bread so beloved by Europeans. I know what you’re probably thinking, and no, it’s not bread made with Soda. This bread is a traditional bread that originated in Ireland and has made it’s way to the rest of Europe. Even more, with St. Patty’s day around the corner, Irish soda bread is popping up in trending recipes and groceries stores in the U.S. All this hype on a bread type got me wondering, what is Irish Soda bread? And better yet, is it good for you?
This simple Irish Soda Bread recipe turned out to be delicious, and helped me understand what this popular bread is made of:
- Nonstick vegetable oil spray
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 5 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 tablespoons butter, chilled, cut into cubes
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2/3 cup raisins (optional)
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray 8-inch-diameter cake pan with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, 4 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in large bowl to blend. Add butter. Using fingertips, rub in until coarse meal forms. Make well in the center of flour mixture. Add buttermilk. Gradually stir dry ingredients into milk to blend. Mix in raisins.
- Using floured hands, shape dough into a ball. Transfer to prepared pan and flatten slightly (dough will not come to edges of pan). Sprinkle dough with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.
- Bake bread until brown and tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool bread in pan 10 minutes. Transfer to rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
So, now you know what Irish soda bread technically is, but is it good for you? The ingredients are pretty simple: flour, sugar, salt, butter, buttermilk… the answer is “it depends”. If your ingredients are fresh, and if the bread is baked fresh, so too, will this bread be healthy. Organic, non-brominated flour is better than stale bleached white flour. If you make this bread, I’d encourage you to use freshly milled flour if possible. Sugar is, of course, not healthy, but the amount used for this loaf is not too overbearing. Organic raw sugar instead of bleached white granulated sugar would be the better choice. Same goes for the bread, milk, etc. If you are using high-quality, fresh ingredients or buying from someone who did, then yes, this bread has the potential to be hearty and healthy. If not, it’s likely to be just a sugary dessert-style bread. Either way, it is delicious, so don’t be afraid to try a slice in lieu of the Irish holiday celebrations!