Irish Soda Bread Go Bragh

I admit it. I arose this morning slightly pickled from wine. Friday night started off innocently enough with a glass of vouvray, progressing to a sparkling grüner veltliner or two and ending with a glass of … umm … red? That, and polishing off an entire dessert plate of cookies from Scampo.

Despite last night’s shenanigans, I promised myself I was going to make Irish soda bread and so I headed to the kitchen—because a promise is a promise no matter how many glasses you’ve downed or cookies you’ve eaten—and got to work. Well, first I made butter because I needed the buttermilk for the soda bread. Then I got to work.

Butter making aside, this is a shamefully simple bread. And is hard to mess up, even if your sobriety is in question (which I suppose is fitting given said recipe and the reputation of the Irish, in general). Also appropriate, arguably non-negotiable even, is the crucial step of plumping the currants in some whiskey. Which provided a visual for how my little shrived up liver was likely feeling, as well.

In under an hour, I was enjoying the sweet, crunchy crust and tender crumbs of my labor, and rapidly becoming a soda bread enthusiast. While soda bread has a sinister reputation for being dry, I assure you this one is not. Nor is it boring with its boozy currants and hint of anise, which I admit is not Irish, but what can I say: I’m Italian.

Should you not want to make your own—or perhaps have had a night similar to mine and don’t feel up to “morning after” soda bread baking—I suggest you head to the newly opened Wholy Grain bakery in the South End. They have a nutty oatmeal soda bread that is to die for. And they sell it by the loaf. Their recipe is from the owner’s brother’s bakery in Ireland and was the inspiration for the soda bread pledge I made with myself.

Soda bread is still regularly found on dinner tables in Ireland and is worth including on yours, especially given our proximity to St. Patrick’s Day. But you don’t need the luck of the Irish, nor do you really need to have all your wits about you to make this recipe. You just need a plan, a pan, and some whiskey. Which might actually make for a pretty good life slogan, as well. I’ll ponder that one as I eat my next slice …

Irish Soda Bread with Whiskey Currants

3/4 cup currants
~1/4 cup whiskey of your choice (I like bourbon), enough to plump the currants
1 cup flour
3/4 cup spelt flour
1/4 cup bran
5 tbsp sugar, divided
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
3 tbsp cold butter, cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp anise seeds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put currants in a small bowl and pour whiskey over them; set aside. Grease a 9 inch loaf pan with butter. Combine flours, bran, 4 tablespoons of sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a large bowl. Add butter and use your fingers or a pastry cutter to mix in butter until it crumbles. Make a well in the center of your bowl and add in buttermilk; mix until just combined. Drain currants and add them to the mixture, along with the anise seeds. Pour batter into greased loaf pan and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Makes 1 loaf

-Caraway seeds would be splendid, and very appropriate, in this recipe.

-If you don't have spelt flour (and why would you, really?) you could easily substitute whole wheat or just use 2 cups all purpose flour instead. I recently bought spelt flour because I've been seeing it in a lot of dessert recipes lately and figured spelt was as good a reason as any to justify dessert.

-I make butter by whipping cream and then often save the "buttermilk" that remains for baking. I suspect it's a little richer than the buttermilk you find in grocery stores.


  1. i wish my soda bread had had currants in it. i wasn't impressed, but then again, i didn't have a clue as to what to expect. yours does look fantastic.

    see, I whispered instead of yelling. just for you. :)

  2. Whiskey currants. Brilliant. :)

  3. I definitely indulged in a few glasses of wine last night but I'm planning on making some biscuits today :-)

  4. I hope you're feeling better by now.

    Sounds like a great recipe. My husband is making corned beef this week. This bread will be a great addition to the table.


  5. i'd like to think that the whiskey currants would find their way into the bread, but it would be a lie--they'd go straight into my belly. :)

  6. I love Irish soda bread! I haven't tried it with currants though, so that sounds great. I am ready for St. Patrick's Day!

  7. I've always wanted to try making Irish soda bread at home and whiskey currants?...be still my beating heart. That sounds like an amazing addition!

  8. What wine could I serve this bread with ?

  9. Because of the fennel/licorice notes from the anise, I'd try it with a viognier. It's a bit more full bodied and would compliment the bread's buttery notes. I'm hesitant to suggest even a light red, like a pinot noir, because it might crush it ... though it does have the currants. If you're dying for red, you could try Banyuls. Or just do bubbly. Everything goes with bubbly.