Irish Brown Soda Bread With Molasses is an easy Irish traditional bread made with whole wheat flour, oats, and molasses.
Irish Brown Soda Bread With Molasses
I recently visited Dublin, Ireland, for the first time. I fell in love with the city, the climate, and the excellent food, especially the bread. Like all the rest of the European countries, Ireland loves its bread.
During my visit to Dublin, I tried multiple types of bread, from classic white soda bread to bread made with beer, molasses (or treacle- as they call it there), oats, or seeds.
All these breads were fabulous, and I have to say that my addiction to bread went crazy while visiting this old city.
I came back home ready to try some of these breads. If you are shy about making bread at home, you are not alone. Making bread, especially with yeast, could be pretty intimidating.
For that reason, starting with a simple bread, like Irish soda bread, might inspire you to try some more diverse recipes.
Baking is one of the most satisfying types of cooking there is. It fills the house with comforting aromas and the anticipation of wholesome and delicious baked treats.
Something about baking is very therapeutic, from kneading dough to making a loaf of bread, making a cake for a special occasion, or working on a batch of favorite cookies.
You can try this activity with children from a young age, even if it means a lot of mess in the kitchen afterward.
I encourage you to take the time to enjoy the simplest pleasures of baking an apple cake or soda bread in the knowledge that generations have been using these recipes before you.
What is soda bread?
Soda bread is a distinctly Irish bread made with flour, usually buttermilk and baking soda instead of yeast. In the US, this bread is also sometimes called “quick bread.”
Irish soda bread, traditionally baked over an open fire and served hot or cold with sweet butter and jam, is a biscuit-like loaf that you can see on most breakfast and tea tables in Ireland.
The Irish baking tradition is an old one, as you can imagine. Irish breads, in general, are hearty, substantial, and absolutely delicious.
As we have come to know, in the United States, a typical Irish soda bread contains raisins or dried currants and caraway seeds.
These additions were not the norm in old Ireland unless it was a special occasion, as they would have been costly and out of reach for a peasant farmer.
However, the Irish traditions of shaping the loaves round, dusting them heavily with flour, and cutting a cross deep into the top of them, seem to go back to the early days, when the breads were often baked in iron skillets or deep Dutch ovens.
Today we bake these breads on trays inside modern ovens that provide controlled heat for a perfect result.
How to handle soda bread dough:
Do not be tempted to knead the soda bread made with baking powder or baking soda the same way you would knead yeast bread. Too much handling causes the bread to toughen.
The process should not take more than a few minutes from the time you add the buttermilk to the time you put it in the oven- any longer, and the action of the baking soda is lost.
What kind of flour can be used to make soda breads?
A half-and-half mixture of whole wheat flour and white flour works the best, but hundreds of recipes out there also call for rye, oats or spelt, and even beer.
I like using whole wheat flour over white flour because it is a healthier option. In Ireland, you will find different types of flour that you can use, but we are not going to talk about that as we live in the US and have different kinds of products here.
What ingredients do we need for this brown soda bread:
- All-purpose flour
- Whole wheat flour – is healthier and with a lower glycemic index
- Rolled oats – for texture
- Baking soda – for rising
- Molasses (black treacle) – brings a little bit of sweetness and color to the bread.
How to make Irish Brown Soda Bread With Molasses:
First of all, you will need to preheat the oven to 450F. Yes, it is hot, but we will bake this bread only for 15 minutes at this temperature, and then we will lower it to 400F. Stay with me, please.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, salt, and baking soda. We will mix the dry ingredients first, then add the liquid over.
Make a little well in the middle of the flour and add the buttermilk and molasses.
Using a fork, stir the liquid, gradually bringing the flour in from around the edge.
With floured hands, lightly knead to a soft dough. Shape the dough into a round and place it on the parchment paper.
Press the dough flat about two inches/5cm thick. Use a sharp knife with a long blade to cut a deep cross on the top.
Why do we have to cut a cross on top of the soda bread?
Traditionally, a deep cross is cut into the top of the soda bread, giving it its distinctive appearance. Mothers used to tell their children that the cross allowed the fairies to escape.
I actually saw a cooking show on TV from Ireland the other day where the baker was making soda bread with Paul Hollywood, and she was explaining the same thing while she was making the cross on top of her bread.
The real purpose of the cross is actually to allow the steam to escape during baking, producing a lighter textured bread.
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 400F/200C.
Continue baking the bread for another 20-25 minutes or until the base of the bread sounds hollow when tapped.
Transfer to a wire rack and allow it to cool slightly. Serve it with some good Irish butter and some jam or honey next to a cup of tea/coffee.
I could not be patient enough to cut the bread cool, so I slapped some butter on it and ate it right away. The butter was melting fast and furious, greasing my fingers.
I have no words to describe to you how good this bread is. With butter. And no, I do not feel any guilt, just pleasure!
I actually saw three types of bread served as a starter at this Gallagher’s Boxty House restaurant in Dublin. I mean, people are ordering slices of warm bread and a bunch of butter, and eating them while drinking beer!
I think we should adopt this tradition as long as we make these breads from scratch with good, honest ingredients. You should try it for St. Patrick’s Day!
Anyway, enjoy the bread you made so easily, and feel free to write a comment at the bottom of this article to let me know what you think.
Are you also interested in baking more with buttermilk and baking soda? This article about baking with buttermilk will just help you do that.
How about a recipe for Beer Bread, for example, very popular in Minnesota? Or this Easy Savory Cheese Bread?
More recipes to love:
32 Easy Recipes For St. Patrick’s Day
No Yeast Bread (soda bread with 4 ingredients)
Irish Brown Soda Bread With Molasses
- 2 cups all purpose flour plus extra for dusting
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- ½ cup rolled oats
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ⅔ cup buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons molasses black treacle
- Preheat the oven to 450F/230C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the flours, oats, salt and baking soda. Mix throughly.
- Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in the buttermilk and molasses.
- Using a fork, stir the liquid, gradually bringing the flour in from around the edge.
- With floured hands lightly knead to a soft dough.
- Shape the dough into a round and place it on the parchment paper. Press the dough flat about 2 inches/5cm thick. Use a sharp knife with a long blade to cut a deep cross on the top.
- Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 400F/200C.
- Continue baking the bread for another 20-25 minutes or until the base of the bread sounds hollow when tapped.
- Transfer to a wire rack and allow it to cool slightly. Serve warm.
Sunday 19th of March 2023
I made a traditional Irish soda bread for St. Patrick's day that came out beautifully. I really wanted to try one with molasses, so I chose this one. Right off, I noticed that the leavening agent seemed deficient. I was right. I'm sorely disappointed in the poor outcome. I MAY try this again with the proper amount of leavening.
The Bossy Kitchen
Sunday 19th of March 2023
With all due respect, the amount of baking soda in this recipe is the right one. You got me intrigued, so I did some research, and this is what I found out:
We have 4 cups of flour in this recipe (2 cups all-purpose flour and 2 cups whole wheat). According to science, 1 cup of flour needs 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. So, if we have 4 cups of flour, we need 1 teaspoon of baking soda in total. (exactly what the recipe calls for). Now, how much do we need for 1 cup of buttermilk? We need 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. This recipe calls for 1 2/3 cups of buttermilk, so basically, we would need less than a teaspoon, right? We do have a full teaspoon though, which is plenty.
Also, molasses acts as a leavening ingredient also, as it is quite acidic. It works beautifully with baking soda helping the dough rise.
However, you need to remember that whole-wheat flour makes your baked goods denser and a lot heavier than those made with just all-purpose flour, and this is why you probably think that the recipe needs more baking soda.
As you do not describe exactly the "poor outcome", it is hard for me to figure out what went wrong, so please write back and tell me more about what happened. Thank you.
Thursday 30th of September 2021
For 30 years I have made either Irish Soda bread or a Molasses Oat bread. I LOVE this recipe because it merges my two favorites together. I did make a couple of modifications. I reduced the All Purpose flour to 1 cup along with 1 cup of Dark Rye flour and also added 1/4 cup of ground Flax seed. Thank you so much for sharing!