Mary’s Cast-Iron Irish Soda Bread
It all started in Ireland
Even though my last name is DiSomma, I discovered that I have some Irish in my heritage mix as well. So a few years back, I was off to Ireland to immerse myself in everything Irish. I spent a week getting acquainted with the culture and customs… and the food, of course! It was a deep dive—and one of the goodies I discovered was Irish soda bread. I fell in love and have been making it ever since.
What is Irish Soda Bread? Basically, it’s THE Irish quick bread
Soda bread is the perfect bread for folks who suffer from FOY (also known as “fear of yeast”). I get it! Working with yeast can be overwhelming, even for a seasoned baker. Good news: soda breads don’t contain any yeast at all. In fact, they are so easy to make that they’re also called “quick breads”. These little loaves are leavened with baking soda, which means you don’t even “knead” to wait for it to rise. Ha!
A Cross with a Sprinkling Of Fairies (Sort of)
This humble delicacy is known for its smooth surface with deep, cross-cut lines (which, by the way, are thought to be a blessing on the bread). Make sure not to put the knife away—you’ll need to poke a hole in each quadrant of the bread to get the fairies out of the dough.
How does Irish soda bread taste? Oh, so good.
Not sold yet? Soda bread tastes good, too. My recipe has a twinge of tangy flavor—that’s from the buttermilk. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, don’t fret! Here’s a quick substitute: Add 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 cup of milk. Stir and let sit for 15 minutes. You want it to curdle a bit, so don’t worry if it’s not perfectly smooth. Voila! Instant buttermilk! Some recipes call for raisins, but I prefer raisins’ itty bitty cousin: currants. To mix things up even more, I’ll sometimes go for a spoonful of caraway seeds instead.
Using a cast-iron dish to make Irish soda bread makes all the difference.
Personally, I like to make my soda bread in a cast-iron skillet. It helps to heat and cook the bread evenly (not to mention the cute, country-style presentation).
I love using my Staub baking dish to make this bread. This French-based company makes beautiful enameled cast-iron bakeware. They are super durable and beautiful to look at, making them my “go-to” bakeware for oven to table cooking. Another great choice is the more familiar cast-iron skillet made by Tennessee-based Lodge Cast Iron. Either will work to make this delicious bread.
Irish soda bread is my go-to, traditional recipe for Saint Patrick’s Day.
I’m always finding new reasons and ways to celebrate, but in my house, this Irish soda bread is tried and true. We always make it all March long, in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. Because it’s crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, it’s super versatile—enjoy it with butter or jam or on the side of a savory winter or spring stew. Perhaps alongside my Guinness beef stew pot pie or my stick-to-your-bones beef bourguignon? Once you get the hang of it, don’t be afraid to experiment with your own add-ins! Yum!