I returned from a trip to Ireland enamored with the Irish brown bread that I was served all over the country. It has a dense crumb and a delicately sweet taste that is hard to resist. The brown soda bread that I enjoyed in Ireland wasn’t anything at all like the “Irish soda bread” I have seen in the United States with it’s white crumb and raisins, so I did a little research to learn more about the origins of true Irish soda bread. I discovered that traditionally, Irish soda bread has just four ingredients: whole wheat flour, salt, baking soda and buttermilk. It’s an extraordinarily easy quick bread. My recipe for Irish brown soda bread uses both whole wheat flour and all purpose flour, and I’ve added two more ingredients to the mix: butter for a little tenderness and molasses to enhance the naturally sweet flavor of the bread. Don’t misunderstand me, however. This is not a sweet bread for dessert. No – it’s a perfect dense bread that is perfect for a hearty sandwich, or alongside a bowl of Guinness Stew, or just a part of a good Irish breakfast of eggs, sausages and potatoes.
Because a little goes a long way with this dense loaf of bread, I like to bake it in a long, narrow loaf pan so that each cross section is a nicer, smaller size. If you choose to make this in a regular 1-pound loaf pan, it will be a different shape to the images above, and may take just a few extra minutes to bake.