Mrs. O'Callaghan's Soda Bread

I was intrigued with this month's Bon Appetit. It seemed to have so many different things that I wanted to try. In the article, "A Slice of Ireland", there is mention by the author, Andrew McCarthy, that in the Irish countryside, there are as many versions of soda bread as there are cooks. I thought about it, read the article and yep, it did seem that there were many twists to the recipe! We all like to put our spin on a is what makes us creative, it is what makes for an improved recipe. But wait, sometimes, the basic recipe is the best recipe.

I decided that I would try the basic recipe that Mrs. O'Callaghan makes at the Ballinalacken Castle Country House and Restaurant. It is said to have a firmness to its texture and a sweetness that lingers after the first taste...why not try it?

What is soda bread? Soda bread originated about 1840 when soda as a leavening agent was introduced in Ireland. The bread is rather basic...flour, buttermilk, soda, butter...and in this recipe some brown sugar.

There is a cross cut in the dough prior to baking. There are said to be several reasons why the bread has a cross. One legend says that folks did it to "let the devil out" while it's baking...for good luck, and others say that it made it easy to divide into 4 pieces. The criss-cross was also a symbol for a cross during Christian holidays.

The recipe, as written, produced a dough that was anything but shaggy! After reading the reviews I see that most folks added another 1/2 cup of buttermilk which is what I am recommending. The bread's flavor was wonderful. I will be making this again.

Mrs. O'Callaghan's Soda Bread

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
3 cups all purpose flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled margarine or butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups buttermilk (add additional, about 1/2 cup, to get the dough to shaggy)
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Spray heavy baking sheet with nonstick spray. (I used a pizza stone.)

Whisk both flours, sugar, and baking soda in medium bowl to blend. Add margarine and cut in until margarine is reduced to pea-size pieces. Add buttermilk; stir until shaggy dough forms.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until dough comes together, about 10 turns. Shape dough into 7-inch round. Place dough on prepared baking sheet. Cut large X, 1/2 inch deep, in top of dough. (I made two six inch loaves instead of one.)

Bake bread until deep brown and bottom sounds hollow when firmly tapped, about 40 minutes. Transfer bread to rack and cool completely.



  1. Now that is one beautiful loaf of Soda Bread. I've never made a whole wheat version. Will you be making it again to serve with Corn Beef?

  2. Hi, This is my 1st time, I just browse your blog and look like you have a lot of wonderful recipes. I will visit you more often to check what you cooking!

  3. I agree....what a great looking bread. I've never made soda bread but this looks so good I must do so.

  4. Your bread looks scrumptious! Ummmm!!! I have always been meaning to make it and now I have the right recipe! Thanks!

  5. Delicious, Kate. I've never used whole wheat flour. Nice change...I'll try it.

  6. Awwwwwww, Kate. Thank you! Thank you for reminding me to link a recipe I made from a food blogger. I love the Saturday showcase idea. I smiled when I saw your dough looking as crumbly as mine first did. Did you get a good workout kneading it? It is a great bread, though. I'll try more buttermilk, next time. We loved this for breakfast with homemade jam...yummy!

  7. Anne, I will be making it again to go with the corn beef...never made corn beef and cabbage but it sounds so good...

  8. You did a wonderful job with this bread! All that's missing is the corned beef cabbage and potatoes :)

  9. GMTA Kate...I also had this on tap for this weekend. I had it book marked in my magazine, but luckily I checked it again on the web site and they did make some corrections to the recipe...

    It will go nicely with corned beef and cabbage...

  10. Looks good, Kate..
    And it's true, so many versions, and some of my youth were bloody awful..dry..blech!
    The one you made is pretty authentic, no seeds or raisins.
    Hope you enjoyed it..I made 10 yesterday to give to friends..

  11. We are having an Irish Soda Bread baking contest at work for St.Patricks Day and I've been going thru sooo many recipes online. I think you're right, it's best to stay with the basics.

  12. Beautiful loaf, Kate! It's gonna be even better with some soup. :)

  13. Oh, Kate, this looks so good. When we go to Ireland one of the first things we do is to find some good soda bread. And some butter. Then we're in heaven.

  14. Kate, you did good!! :D Your step by step photos are wonderful. I can't seem to remember to do that. :/

    I made Kathleen's recipe for soda bread & it was delish too. I don't know why I don't think to make this treat other times of the year.

    I was too sick to participate in the Sat. Blog Showcase this week but I'll be there next week for sure!


  15. What a great loaf! I always forget how much I like Irish Soda Bread until St. Patrick's Day rolls around again.

  16. Maybe I didn't knead mine enough. I made this same recipe, but it was the first bread that I've ever made. I got concerned that I was over working it and I stopped when it looked a little more like your before picture. Oh well. It still tasted okay. I'm linking your pics to my blog, I hope you don't mind.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts