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How to Make Brown Soda Bread

Why this recipe works Robust, moist, and permeated with wheaty sweetness, brown Irish soda bread holds lots of appeal. This quick bread gets its hearty, deeply flavored crumb from the addition of coarse whole-meal flour to the all-purpose flour. For a stateside version, we substituted whole-wheat flour for the hard-to-find whole-meal flour, and to highlight the bread’s nutty aspects we added toasted wheat germ. Unfortunately, these ingredients made our bread slightly gummy. To remedy this, we tried upping the baking soda, but it imparted a soapy flavor. Instead, equal amounts of two leaveners, baking soda and baking powder, lightened the bread without creating off-flavors. Acidic buttermilk played double-duty, yielding a moist loaf and reacting with the baking soda for a light crumb. Just a touch of sugar and a few tablespoons of butter added a hint of sweet richness. The dough required only a brief knead, and shaping it was a cinch—we simply patted it into a round. Finally, brushing melted butter on the hot loaf gave this authentic soda bread a rich crust.

  • makes 1 loaf
  • baking time 45 minutes
  • total time 1¼ hours, plus 3 hours cooling time
  • key equipment rimmed baking sheet, pastry brush


  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups (8¼ ounces) whole-wheat flour
  • ½ cup (1½ ounces) toasted wheat germ
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1¾ cups (14 ounces) buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1). Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, wheat germ, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together in large bowl. Whisk buttermilk, sugar, and 2 tablespoons melted butter in second bowl until sugar has dissolved.


2). Using rubber spatula, gently fold buttermilk mixture into flour mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl, until dough starts to form and no dry flour remains.


3). Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead by hand until cohesive mass forms, about 30 seconds. Pat dough into 7-inch round and transfer to prepared sheet.


4). Using sharp paring knife or single-edge razor blade, make two 5-inch-long, ¼-inch-deep slashes with swift, fluid motion along top of loaf to form cross.


5). Bake loaf until golden brown and skewer inserted in center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking.


6). Transfer loaf to wire rack and brush with remaining melted butter. Let cool completely, about 3 hours, before serving.


variation brown soda bread with currants and caraway

Stir 1 cup dried currants and 1 tablespoon caraway seeds into flour mixture in step 1.

a step-by-step guide