Traditional Irish soda bread has four ingredients: flour, salt, baking soda and buttermilk. But Americans decided that wasn't enough, so modern versions often contain extras like eggs, caraway seeds and butter.
Our recipe straddles the line between traditional and newfangled: Dark brown sugar sweetens the loaf just slightly, while bits of chopped rosemary add a lingering savory note to offset plump golden raisins. Flour in Ireland is traditionally lower in protein than American flour, so we use cake flour to mimic it and keep the texture light, plus whole wheat flour and wheat germ to maintain brown bread's deep color and token nuttiness.
Make sure you score a cross into the top of the loaf: Irish folklore says this is to let the fairies out, but cooking science has this down as a method to allow heat to escape and the bread to expand.
To learn more, read "Shamrock and Roll."
Irish Brown Soda Bread
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: 1 loaf
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
1 cup cake flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup wheat germ
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish
1⅔ cups buttermilk
1 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons melted butter
Butter and jam, for serving
1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Lightly grease a 9-inch cast-iron skillet.
2. In a large bowl, combine the flours, wheat germ, sugar, baking soda, salt and chopped rosemary.
3. Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk. Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined, then mix the golden raisins into the dough. Use your hands to lightly knead the dough until a ball shape forms, making sure not to overmix, as this will toughen the bread.
4. Place the ball of dough into the prepared skillet. Use a knife to score the top, cutting about a third of the way through the dough in an X formation. Brush the top of the loaf with the melted butter and sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of rosemary on top. Bake the bread until the crust is golden and the loaf is hollow when tapped, about 40 minutes.
5. Allow the bread to cool completely, then slice and serve with butter and jam.