Here's an easy recipe for homemade Irish soda bread made with rolled oats and raisins that you can mix in one bowl! This soda bread recipe is great for those who want to make homemade bread, but are a little scared. I suggest beginner bread bakers start with this Irish soda bread with raisins. Try it and let me know what you think in the comments section below!
I love raisin bread. Who doesn't? This is an even easier recipe than this no-knead cinnamon raisin bread because it's faster and doesn't require a long rest period. The process to make this bread is much like making a giant scone or biscuit.
What is Irish soda bread?
Irish soda bread is a traditional quick bread made from just a few ingredients: flour, baking soda (a chemical leavener), salt, and buttermilk. Some will add whole wheat flour (to make a "brown" soda bread) and oats (for a heartier bread). You can flavour the bread with caraway seeds or add raisins for a quick raisin bread. This is a no-knead bread that can be mixed in one bowl and baked right away.
What you need to make this
The beauty of soda bread recipes is that you likely have all the ingredients you need on hand in your fridge and pantry! Here's a rundown of the components
- oats—I tested this recipe with large flake oats, also called rolled oats
- all-purpose flour
- whole wheat flour—I have tested the recipe with whole wheat all-purpose flour (generic grocery store brand) and also white whole wheat flour and hard red spring wheat flour
- sugar—I used granulated sugar
- salt—I used Diamond Crystal fine kosher salt, which is milder in flavour, though table salt will work!
- baking soda—remember baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate, and not to be confused with baking powder
- unsalted butter, though salted will work too
- raisins—I used sultana raisins, though you can use any type of raisin or even dried currants
- egg—use large eggs
- buttermilk (1 % fat)
Please see recipe card for quantities.
Baking powder instead of baking soda in Irish soda bread
When considering whether to use baking soda or baking powder, remember these two leaveners are not directly interchangeable. Baking soda is pure sodium bicarbonate, while baking powder is sodium bicarbonate, acid(s), and cornstarch.
You can't replace 2 teaspoons of baking soda with 2 teaspoons of baking powder in this recipe because of the quantity of buttermilk. These two leavening agents aren't interchangeable. There's so much acid present in the buttermilk, the baking powder would react quickly with the buttermilk, leaving behind the acids from the baking powder, which are slower acting (like monocalcium phosphate) and there's a risk these leftover acids from baking powder may impart an off-flavour to the bread.
Stick to baking soda when making this Irish soda bread recipe or otherwise, you will have to make other changes to the recipe (like replacing the buttermilk with straight milk, for example...).
How to make this without buttermilk
Traditionally, Irish soda is made with buttermilk, an acidic cultured milk product, but if you don't have any buttermilk in the fridge, yes, you can still make Irish soda bread.
To replace buttermilk in Irish soda bread, you will use the same volume of acidified milk, made by mixing milk with a little vinegar or lemon juice. As a rule, add 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of vinegar for every cup of milk (any milk works, whether whole milk, low fat, or skim milk). Adding an acid is key in order for the bread to rise so if you want to replace the buttermilk, you must replace it with another acidic ingredient.
Another option is to dilute some sour cream or yogurt with milk. Again as long as your milk mixture is acidic and you are replacing the buttermilk with the same volume of liquid, the substitution should work.
Quick cooking oats versus rolled oats
This Irish soda raisin bread was developed using large flake oats, also called rolled oats or old-fashioned oats. If you want to try a baking substitution for them, you might think of using quick-cooking oats or minute oats. Unfortunately, the recipe as written won't work as well with quick-cooking oats and you will have to make adjustments because rolled oats are able to absorb more liquid than minute oats, which have a finer texture. You have two options:
- increase the amount of flour in the recipe to help absorb some of that moisture
- decrease the amount of buttermilk in the recipe so that the dough is less wet
I haven't tested the substitution of quick oats versus rolled oats in this recipe, so I can't tell you how much less buttermilk or more flour you will need to add. You'll have to do some testing or go through some trial and error to get the texture just right.
Irish soda bread baking dish and special equipment
I have tested baking this recipe in a 3-quart Dutch oven as well as a larger 5-quart double Dutch oven (from Lodge). Baking this bread in a smaller diameter pot yields a taller loaf, while a larger pot gives the bread more room to expand outward leading to a wider, less tall bread. Both pans work. You could also bake it in a cake pan, as long as you use parchment paper to avoid the bread sticking.
To make oat flour, you can grind the large flake oats (rolled oats) in a large food processor with the other dry ingredients or grind them on their own in a mini food processor. I prefer to do the final mixing steps by hand with a Danish dough whisk, and some of the kneading with a bowl scraper. A bench scraper is also useful for manipulating the shaped dough and transferring it to the parchment paper before baking.
Steps for making no-knead bread without yeast
Use a food processor to grind the oats with the other dry ingredients.
You can even incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients in the food processor.
Whisk the raisins into the dry ingredients in a bowl.
Whisk the buttermilk with the egg in a spouted bowl or a large liquid measuring cup.
The wet ingredients are poured over the dry, and the two components are mixed with a Danish dough whisk.
You can use a pastry scraper to help gather the dry bits from the bottom of the bowl to make sure they are incorporated.
Use a bench scraper to lift dough to transfer it to parchment paper.
Brush the surface of the bread boule with a little extra buttermilk (or milk or even an egg wash) to help oats adhere to surface of bread.
Score the bread boule deeply with a pairing knife
Transfer the bread with parchment to a baking vessel (like the base of this Lodge double-Dutch oven)
Bake the bread until it's a deep brown colour and the internal temperature is between 180 and 190 °F to ensure it's baked through.
If you don't score deep enough, the finished look won't be as clean, even if the bread is still tasty!
This bread was scored deeply and the scoring held its shape nicely as the bread baked.
Just like any homemade bread, soda bread can go stale and dry out very quickly. Be sure to wrap it very tightly once it's completely cooled. I like to wrap it in foil, if not a layer of plastic wrap followed by a layer of foil. Some will freeze the sliced bread for convenience. This means you can toast it straight from the freezer, whenever you like.
Serving suggestions and what to put on Irish soda bread
This bread is great toasted for breakfast, topped with butter and cinnamon sugar, and it's a great accompaniment for eggs and bacon, just like any raisin bread. You can even use it to make sandwiches, just like regular yeasted bread.
Other examples of no-knead bread
There's a whole world of no-knead bread to explore. Besides soda bread, you could also try my recipe for no-knead cinnamon raisin bread, which uses yeast as a leavening agent. With typical yeast no-knead bread, the rest time is much longer while Irish soda bread has no rest time so it's much faster! For another quick bread, try this homemade Boston brown bread which is baked in a coffee can.
Irish Soda Bread with Raisins (no yeast)
- 90 grams rolled oats (or large flake oats)
- 250 grams bleached all-purpose flour
- 250 grams whole wheat all-purpose flour
- 26 grams granulated sugar
- 7.5 mL Diamond Crystal fine kosher salt
- 10 mL baking soda
- 58 grams unsalted butter cold cut into cubes
- 160 grams sultana raisins
- 1 large egg(s)
- 500 mL buttermilk (1 % fat)
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- In the bowl of a food processor, pulse together the oats, flours, sugar, salt, and baking soda to grind the oats down and evenly mix all the dry ingredients.
- Pulse in the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles a coarse crumble.
- Transfer to a large bowl and then stir in raisins.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and the buttermilk.
- Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture. Pour the beaten egg and buttermilk into the well and mix in with a wooden spoon until dough is too stiff to stir. Dust hands with a little flour, then gently knead dough in the bowl just long enough to form a rough ball.
- Transfer the dough onto a large piece of parchment and then shape it into a round loaf. Pick up the parchment corners to gather it together and plop everything (paper and all) into a Dutch oven.
- Using a serrated knife, score top of dough about 1⁄2'' deep in an "X" shape. Sprinkle with a few more oats if you have some.
- Transfer the pot to the oven and bake until bread is a deep brown all over, about 50 to 60 minutes.
- Transfer bread to a rack to let cool about one hour before slicing. Serve bread warm, at room temperature, or sliced and toasted.
Adapted from Saveur.