Rachel Allen's Brown Soda Bread

[Photograph: Lis Parsons]

For many years, I assumed that Irish soda bread always meant a slightly sweet, caraway and currant laced bread easily mistaken for a giant muffin. Frankly, I never liked this version of the quick bread, much preferring to eat "real bread" with my soup. It's a good thing I was mistaken about the scope of soda breads.

Most of these loaves, like those featured in Rachel's Irish Family Food, are a much simpler (and more appealing) combination of flour, baking soda, and buttermilk. Rachel Allen's brown soda bread adds a bit more oomph with a hefty dose of whole wheat flour, a couple tablespoons of mixed seeds, and just a touch of butter. The resulting bread is an exemplary accompaniment to any number of soups, pickles, marmalades, or a generous swipe of butter.

Why I picked this recipe: You can't have an Irish feast without at least one loaf of soda bread.

What worked: Full-flavored from whole wheat flour and studded with oil-rich seeds, this quick bread was a winner.

What didn't: No problems with this easy recipe.

Suggested tweaks: You could mix in any number of nuts, seeds, or dried fruit to this dough. Keep it around 3 tablespoons for the best texture.

Reprinted from Rachel's Irish Family Food: 120 classic recipes from my home to yours by Rachel Allen. Copyright 2013. Published by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. Available wherever books are sold.

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Rachel Allen's Brown Soda Bread

About This Recipe

Yield:makes 1 loaf
Active time:10 minutes
Total time:55 minutes
This recipe appears in: Rachel Allen's Brown Soda Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups (225g) whole wheat (wholemeal) flour
  • 1 3/4 cups (225g) all-purpose (plain) flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
  • 3 tablespoons (50g) mixed seeds, such as sesame, pumpkin, or sunflower, or golden flax seeds (linseeds) (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons (25g) butter, softened (optional)
  • 1 egg
  • About 1 2/3 cups (375–400ml) buttermilk or soured milk

Procedures

  1. 1

    Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).

  2. 2

    Sift together the flours, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl and mix in the seeds (if using). Add the butter (if using), and rub into the flour mixture with your fingertips until it resembles bread crumbs. Make a well in the center.

  3. 3

    In another bowl, whisk the egg with the buttermilk and pour most of the liquid into the flour mixture. Using one hand with your fingers outstretched like a claw, bring the flour and liquid together, adding more of the buttermilk mixture, if necessary. The dough should be quite soft, but not too sticky.

  4. 4

    Turn onto a floured work surface and gently bring the dough together into a round about 1 1/2 inches (4cm) thick. Cut a deep cross on top and place on a baking sheet.

  5. 5

    Bake for 15 minutes. Turn down the heat to 400°F (200°C) and bake for 30 minutes more. When done, the loaf will sound slightly hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from the baking sheet and place on a wire rack to cool.

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