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A soda bread with currants and caraway pairs with tea and savory foods

(Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Marie Ostrosky for The Washington Post)
American-Style Irish Soda Bread
Active time:40 mins
Total time:3 hours 20 mins, including currant-soaking time
Servings:16 to 20 (makes two 8-inch round loaves)
Active time:40 mins
Total time:3 hours 20 mins, including currant-soaking time
Servings:16 to 20 (makes two 8-inch round loaves)

If I had one catchphrase, it would have to be “You can freeze that.” (It’s become a running joke among my colleagues, and you need only take a peek in my refrigerator at home to see how staunchly I believe it.) If I could be allowed one more, I’d nominate “It goes great with tea,” as I’m inclined to say just about any baked treat pairs well with my favorite beverage.

As luck, or my own personal preferences, would have it, this American-Style Irish Soda Bread falls into both categories.

Because the recipe makes two generously sized loaves, it’s easy to stash an entire round or individual slices in the freezer for when you really need something with your cuppa. I particularly enjoy the soda bread with a full-bodied breakfast tea similar to what’s popular in Ireland. You do you, though.

5 tips for a better cup — or pot — of tea

What is not traditionally Irish, though, is this soda bread recipe. Soda bread in Ireland, which you may see referred to as brown soda bread, tends to be heartier, more rustic fare, featuring wholemeal flour, a different product than our whole-wheat flour. The currant- and caraway-studded version is more common in the United States.

Nonetheless, this is an exemplary example of the Americanized treat. It comes from the second cookbook by Brian Noyes of Virginia’s Red Truck Bakery, a must-stop for me whenever I find myself in the pretty countryside west of Washington. Noyes’s version makes for a tender, subtly sweet and slightly tangy bread. If you decide to include the caraway seeds, the bread has a savory edge, making it a nice pairing with something like Beef and Stout Stew. If you don’t, it’s more like a very large scone, ideal for slathering with jam. Either way, be sure to have good salted butter on hand.

So named because it is leavened with baking soda instead of yeast, soda bread is a great option for beginning bread bakers or those without a lot of time to wait for dough to rise. This recipe also includes baking powder, which guarantees a tender crumb and lift, minus the time pressure you face when working with quicker-acting baking soda alone.

Irish soda bread tends to get a lot of attention around St. Patrick’s Day, but this recipe proves it deserves year-round status, next to your tea and in your freezer.

American-Style Irish Soda Bread

If you prefer, leave out the caraway seeds or include them in only one of the two loaves, kneading them into half of the dough when shaping the rounds. You can also substitute raisins for the currants, though you may want to use slightly less, as they are bigger.

Storage: Store at room temperature in an airtight container or tightly wrapped for up to 3 days (toast slices for best texture and flavor). Freeze loaves or slices for up to 2 months.

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  • 2 cups (8 ounces/227 grams) dried currants
  • 1 cup (240 milliliters) bottled or fresh orange juice (from 3 to 4 oranges)
  • 6 cups (750 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons caraway seeds (optional; see headnote)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 cups (480 milliliters) low-fat or whole buttermilk
  • 8 tablespoons (4 ounces/113 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) heavy cream
  • 2 large eggs, divided
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil or other neutral oil
  • 2 tablespoons water

Step 1

In a medium bowl, submerge the currants in the orange juice, cover with a dish towel or plate, and soak at room temperature for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Step 2

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

Step 3

Drain the currants, discarding the orange juice or saving it for mixing into tea or sparkling water (it will be quite sweet and thick). Line a rimmed baking sheet with a clean dish towel or paper towels and spread the currants on it to soak up any excess liquid. Pat them dry.

Step 4

In a very large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, caraway seeds, if using, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Scatter the currants into the flour and fold them in with a flexible spatula until evenly distributed.

Step 5

In a medium bowl or 4-cup measuring cup with a spout, whisk together the buttermilk, melted butter, cream, 1 egg and the oil until combined. Pour into the flour mixture.

Step 6

Generously flour your hands and use them to start stirring the dough together (do not use an electric mixer, but you can use a flexible spatula, if desired). Reach in and around the dough to lightly knead, turning it over and over until combined. The dough should be slightly wet but not gloppy. Add a bit more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, if the dough feels too wet and is spreading.

Step 7

Generously flour your work surface and turn out the dough. Re-flour your hands and gently knead the dough, turning and folding it over itself, just until it is somewhat firmer, sprinkling more flour on your hands or the work surface as needed. Try not to add too much more flour to the dough. If any currants fall out, just poke them back in. Divide the dough in half, shaping each portion into a round loaf 5½ to 6 inches in diameter, positioning any seams on the bottom. Do not flatten the loaves, making sure they are shaped more like mounds.

Step 8

Place the loaves several inches apart on the prepared baking sheet (they will spread a little) but not up against the rim. Combine the remaining egg with the water. Brush the egg wash on the top and sides of each loaf. Use a wet serrated knife to gently score an X no more than ¼- to ½-inch deep into the top of each loaf.

Step 9

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, rotating the baking sheet from front to back halfway through, until the loaves are nicely browned and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. The loaves should also sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool completely on a wire rack, and rub off and discard any burned currants, if desired, before serving.

Nutrition Information

Per serving, based on 20 (using low-fat buttermilk)

Calories: 289; Total Fat: 9 g; Saturated Fat: 5 g; Cholesterol: 41 mg; Sodium: 306 mg; Carbohydrates: 47 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugar: 17 g; Protein: 6 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

Adapted from “The Red Truck Bakery Farmhouse Cookbook” by Brian Noyes (Clarkson Potter, 2022).

Tested by Becky Krystal; email questions to

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