Traditional Irish soda bread is made without any sweetener. The versions we’re accustomed to, flecked with raisins or currants, and enriched with eggs and a touch of sugar, are considered a teacake. I love that kind of bread, but decided to develop a recipe that harkened back to its roots. Of course, I still took a couple of liberties, one by using whole-wheat pastry flour, and the other in including a smidge of honey. It’s just enough to enhance the flavor of the bread without it being noticeable. Feel free to swap in all-purpose flour (it’s an equal weight), and omit the honey, or swap in agave to make it vegan. I’ve not tested it with gluten-free flour blends, though, but do let me know the results if you give it a try, as I’m curious.
Makes one 8-inch round loaf
1 2/3 cups (240) grams whole-wheat pastry flour, plus more for kneading & shaping
1 1/4 teaspoons (6 grams) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) sea salt
1 cup (237 ml / 214 grams) plus 1 tablespoon (15 ml) buttermilk, well shaken
1 tablespoon (20 grams) honey
1. Arrange the rack to the upper middle position of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400F.
2. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt to a deep bowl. Whisk to combine.
3. Pour one cup of the buttermilk into the bowl. Drizzle the honey over the top of the flour mixture. Using a wooden spoon, stir just until it comes together into a rough dough (it will look more like a very thick batter at first).
4. Dust a counter or cutting board with a bit of flour. Scrape the dough onto the counter. Sprinkle a little more flour on top. Knead 30 to 60 seconds until it forms a somewhat smooth ball (it will have dimples, but shouldn’t be sticky).
5. Generously sprinkle flour on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the shaped dough onto the tray. Brush the top and sides with the remaining buttermilk. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour on top. Using a very sharp knife, make two cuts into the top to form an “X”, taking care not to cut all the way through to the bottom (you want a deep slash in the dough, not to separate the pieces).
6. Bake for 25 to 27 minutes, until the loaf is a deep golden color, and sounds hollow when tapped with your knuckle. Let the bread cool completely before slicing, about an hour.