Brown Soda Bread with Currants and Caraway

Brown soda bread offers nourishment, a rich flavor and is quite simple to prepare in any kitchen – emboldening the the repertoire of even the novice cook.  While the Irish are known for their traditional soda bread which combines little else but flour, buttermilk, salt and baking soda, many home cooks have adjusted the recipe with the inclusion of raisins, currants and other ingredients.  This brown soda bread with currants and caraway is no exception.

A tradition that may predate the popularization of soda bread in 1840s Ireland, the combination of an acid (buttermilk) and a base (baking soda) creates a reaction that causes the bread to rise without aid of baking yeast or sourdough starter.  Some evidence indicates that combining an acid with a base to leaven bread may have also occured in the Americas with the traditional methods of baking employed by Native Americans who used potash in place of baking soda and another acidic medium in place of buttermilk.  Regardless of the method’s earliest origins, the Irish have, undoubtedly, made it their own. It is a fast, simple and humble bread that appealed to Ireland’s poor and working class families.

In my version of soda bread, I prefer to soak the flour – a soft wheat  – with buttermilk overnight or longer.  This practices helps to mitigate the effects of phytic acid, an antinutrient naturally found in whole grain that binds minerals and preventing their full absorption by the body.  Soaking flour in an acidic medium, such as buttermilk or soured milk, for several hours not only improves the not only the digestibility of the grain, but also the body’s ability to absorb whole grain’s natural, full array of micronutrients.  Moreover, soaking flour helps to acidify the dough which produces a pleasantly tender crumb when baked.

recipe for brown soda bread with currants and caraway

By Jenny Published: March 9, 2010

  • Yield: One loaf.
  • Prep: 8 to 18 hours mins
  • Cook: 40 to 50 minutes (baking) mins
  • Ready In: 48 mins

While this recipe resembles Spotted Dog more than a traditional Irish soda bread as it’s dotted with whiskey-soaked currants and caraway seeds, both of which contribute to the simple bread’s full-bodied rich flavor. Slather a slice with fresh butter and serve it alongside a mug of hot red tea.

Ingredients

  • 5 1/2 cups whole grain white wheat flour (preferably sprouted)
  • 2 cups fresh, additive-free buttermilk (preferably cultured at home, see sources for a starter culture)
  • 1 cup dried currants
  • whiskey (to soak currants, optional)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp unrefined sea salt
  • 1 tbsp caraway seeds

Instructions

  1. Gently sift five and one-half cups soft white wheat flour, then stir two cups fresh buttermilk into the flour. Combine the flour and buttermilk well until the two are thoroughly mixed together to form a soft, shaggy dough. Cover well and tightly, allowing the dough to sit at room temperature overnight or up to eighteen hours – a process referred to as “soaking.”
  2. In a separate bowl or small container, pour out 1 cup dried currants then pour enough whiskey over the currants to cover them. If you do not have whiskey on hand, or do not wish to use it, cover the currants with filtered water brought to room temperature. Allow the currants to soak in the water for the same amount of time you allow the flour to soak in buttermilk – overnight to eighteen hours. While this practice doesn’t improve the nutrient profile of the currants, it does improve their flavor and texture.
  3. The next day, after the dough and currants have sufficiently soaked overnight or up to eighteen hours, strain the currants from the whiskey reserving the whiskey for another use as you see fit.
  4. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. While the oven preheats, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and gently knead one tablespoon caraway seeds, the whiskey-soaked currants, one teaspoon baking soda and one teaspoon unrefined sea salt into the dough.
  6. Flour your hands, as needed, and shape the dough into a nice, full and round ball. Cut a deep cross into the top of the dough.
  7. When the oven has reached a temperature of 425 degrees Fahrenheit, place the dough in the oven and bake for twenty-five to thirty minutes.
  8. After the soda bread has baked at 425 degrees for twenty-five to thirty minutes, reduce the heat of the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and continue to bake for another fifteen to twenty minutes.
  9. Remove the bread from the oven and allow it to cool thoroughly before serving.

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What people are saying

  1. Tina~ says

    Hi!
    This sounds incredible- can’t wait to try it.
    Do you need to soak the flour overnight if you are using a sprouted flour?
    Thanks!

  2. Leah says

    This looks so nice. I’m going to experiment with smaller amounts so I can come up with a gluten free version.

  3. Erin from Long Island says

    I have to be a copy cat and say how I love the story within the recipe, or is it the recipe within the story? Your recipe is quite similar to mine (minus the flour soaking) and I look forward to trying yours….like tommorow! I always say mine is not 100% Irish soda bread, but neither am I so it’s ok. ; )

  4. Jenny says

    Tina -

    If you’re using sprouted flour, you do not have to soak the the flour overnight.  Sprouted flour is sort of pre-soaked since the grains have been germinated, many of the antinutrients have already been mitigated.  I use sprouted flour exclusively in our house – even for sourdoughs.  It just makes things easier to have one flour, you know?

    - Jenny

  5. Jenny says

    Jessica -

    I hope you try the brown soda bread, it’s really tasty – very flavorful especially with the combination of whiskey-soaked currants and caraway seeds.  Caraway is so deliciously fragrant – I love using it! 

    Blessings -

    Jenny

  6. says

    Great Recipe…

    Bon Appetite just ran an article in their last issue on Soda Bread and I was pondering searching for a recipe with soaked grains…

    Thanks for reading my mind…

    Heather

  7. Jessica says

    Hi- this looks delicious! But I’m so confused, and this is something I’ve been wondering for awhile since I have been buying sprouted flour. I thought the soaking process was to be done if the flour is not sprouted- an alternative. Are you saying that for all the recipes in NT and on other blogs that call for soaking, I just use my sprouted flour and still soak? I guess I thought this defeats the purpose, because the phytates are already reduced by the sprouting method…I’m new at this so bare with me, thanks!!

  8. Jenny says

    Nancy -

    You canabsolutely substitute kefir for buttermilk in soda bread.  I’ve done it many times.  You can also use sour milk too.

    - Jenny

  9. Jenny says

    Hey Tiff  -

    I’m so glad you liked this!  I love the addition of caraway in the bread.  I think it provides a nice contrast to the sweetness of the currants. We’ll have to do dinner some time soon.

    - J

  10. Jenny says

    Jessica -

    You’re absolutely right: if the grain has already been sprouted you don’t *need* to soak it too, and if you’re planning to soak the flour, you don’t necessarily need to use sprouted flour too.  It’s my personal preference to use sprouted flour for everything – even sourdough.  It’s easier for me to have only sprouted flour in the house and I find it easier to digest overall – even with soaking or souring.  Find what works for you.

    - Jenny

  11. toola says

    Salut

    I’m appalled at the advertising here. It seems to me you’re promoting consumerism, just of different products. As an analogy, I’ll mention people who garage sale three days a week in summer and think they aren’t shopping.

    The nourishment in my kitchen doesn’t depend on me shopping at organics/health food stores and buy expensive and thousands of miles flown or driven speciality items.

    Are you getting paid in some way, product or money, to run the ads here and promote products?

    Will what you send via e-mail be advertising for products, and coupons and for ingredients and products I will be advised to buy in order to re-create the recipes.

    I’d like to know the answers before I decide whether or not I let the marketplace into my inbox.

  12. Jenny says

    Toola -

    Are your magazines free from print ads?  Are your newspapers free from advertising?  Is your TV free from commercials?  Are your highways free from billboards? Is your yahoo.ca email account free from banner ads? Do you work for free? 

    You’re damned right I accept advertising on my site, and will continue to do so while maintaining both the integrity of my site and its message.  About one-half the ad space on my site is dedicated to not-for-profits.  All the banner ads currently running on the site are for not-for-profits with the exception of my own product.  All the companies listed in the resources page are small, family-owned companies that provide real and traditional foods that many of my readers would not otherwise have access to.

    Moreover, don’t be moronic or melodramatic: not a single recipe on this site is contingent on you purchasing a product flown in from thousands of miles away.

    If you don’t like it, don’t read it. 

    Blessings -

    J

  13. Jenny says

    Jenn -

    You’re going to *love* this recipe.  The caraway really makes it, and while it’s not a traditional Irish soda bread in the sense that it includes more than flour, buttermilk, salt and baking soda, it is so good.  It’d be a fun way to celebrate your new-found heritage.  Much of my heritage is Irish too.

     – J

  14. Maddy says

    Let it cook for over an hour… The center was doughy. Real heavy and threw it out. This was a costly experiment…Don’ think I’ll make it as a bread maker. LOL

  15. says

    I made this soda bread with spelt flour–its so good i can’t stop eating it. seriously–for those of you with wheat intolerances, fear not the spelt flour soda bread!

  16. eliza says

    Didn’t work for me either. When I checked it at 25 minute the top was already turning dark brown. I turned off the oven and left it in for another 10 minutes in hopes that the middle might not end up completely uncooked. It came out over cooked on the outside and very undercooked on the inside. I can’t imagine cooking it for the full 40-50 min, at least not at the temperatures listed.

  17. Jenny says

    Eliza –
    I’m at 10,000 ft, and I always wonder how my baking recipes apply to those at lower elevations. Trying to get it figured out!
    – J

  18. says

    What a great site you have here. I’ve not seen it before, and I’m enjoying it with my Saturday cup of coffee. I love soda bread and this looks like a great recipe. The caraway seeds are a pleasant addition. I recently tried a new soda bread recipe and used a skillet to bake it in. It helped with the wet dough, and I enjoyed the resulting shape. I also added raisins, which I’d not tried before. I’m thinking your currants would be excellent.

  19. Evelina says

    I’m at 500 ft. above sea level, so I lowered the higher temp to 400 (minus 25 degrees, per high altitude alterations) for the first 25 minutes, then lowered it to 350 for the remaining 20 minutes and the bread cooked just right. Unfortunately I misplaced my caraway this morning, so we are enjoying our loaf with butter and raw honey.

  20. djseaweed says

    hi, nice to see someone interested in making real food. you could have mentioned that it might not be a coincidence that in a country where the traditional wheat bread is neither fermented or soaked that the population has a very high rate of both celiac disease and schizophrenia. anyway, i have a question. if i make sprouted wheat bread i soak and sporout the wheat for maybe 3 days then grind it wet; it makes a moist, malty sweet loaf. from what you say, and the link to the sprouted flour people, their flour would make bread more like the ‘ordinary bread’ that we are used to. that is it must be soaked/germinated for a much shorter period of time, so it’s not as sweet and malty. is this the case?

  21. jessie says

    Hi,

    I’m wondering if you have any techniques to make these soaked flour recipes a little less…dense! I usually make all of my recipes this way, and have found my finished product to occaisionally have just the right amount of crumb and seem more or less normal density. Since I don’t use tons of grains or do loads of baking, I’m always trying to figure out what has made the difference here! I’ve experimented with more or fewer eggs, baking powder or not, etc…Any suggestions? I’ve also experienced the dreaded “Oh-crap-my-crust-is-burning-and-the-inside-is-still-wet”, but less often. How is the texture and density of your soda bread? At least these breads tend to have superior flavor…

    Thanks!

    j

  22. Chelsea Wipf says

    This turned out so good! It really makes a massive loaf though…probably because the dough is so wet. I will be keeping this recipe as my go-to Irish Soda Bread!

    • jenny says

      There’s a school of thought within traditional foods that says sprouting is not sufficient to reduce phytate; another school of thought says soaking in buttermilk is not sufficient to reduce phytate. With this recipe, you’ve got all your bases covered. Me? I just *really* like the flavor of sprouted flour.

  23. says

    Oh no! I don’t have caraway seeds, and I want to make this in the morning. Is there something I could switch it for, or should I just leave it out? I have fennel (not my favorite flavor). Let me know ASAP. Thanks!!!

  24. Nicole says

    i followed your recipe and for the amount of flour it was not enough buttermilk. The edges dried out and it was very difficult to mix…the flour was sprouted and dried than- i milled it at home…Not sure why this did not come out that great?
    Should i put more of “wet agent” in there? Thank you for your suggestions…

      • Michele Heath says

        I hope this is not a terribly ridiculous question, but can I just leave out the carraway seeds and currants? I”m sure it would be wonderful, but can we leave them out and still make a good bread? Are there any adjustments if we leave it out?

  25. Kathy says

    Thanks for the amazing recipe. I’ve just made it without the whiskey and caraway seeds as I didn’t have them. Tastes gorgeous! It’s great for me as I’m trying to eat less yeast. And I made a gluten-free version at the same time – with sorghum flour (3 1/2 cups) and rice flour (2 cups) and a bit of xanthum gum. I soaked them overnight too. Tastes wonderful. Very different to the wheat one but equally as good.

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