Rachel Allen's Brown Soda Bread

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.

  • Yield:makes 1 loaf
  • Active time: 10 minutes
  • Total time:55 minutes


  • 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


  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.