In a mixing bowl, mix together flour, salt, sugar, baking soda, and baking powder. If you’d desired, stir in Parmesan and rosemary. Whisk egg on the side of the bowl and combine with softened butter. It will be crumbly at first. Then quickly stir in buttermilk, mixing just enough to form a homogeneous dough.
Transfer to a lightly floured surface and quickly knead for 5 to 8 times maximum. Shape into a flat round or oval shape! Score an X on the top center (about ¼-inch deep if baking or ⅓-inch deep if cooking bread in the slow cooker). Transfer right away to either a baking sheet or cast iron skillet lined with parchment paper, or to a lined slow cooker.
IF COOKING IN THE CROCKPOT: Brush bread with buttermilk and cook on high for 2 ½ hours, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. For a browned crust, brush crockpot bread with olive oil or melted butter and then broil bread on the middle rack of the oven on top of a lined baking sheet for 3-5 minutes or until lightly brown.
IF BAKING: Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top has browned. For a moist and softer crust, brush bread with extra buttermilk before baking and also every 20 minutes while baking.
SUBSTITUTIONS:Although traditional Irish soda bread takes only 4 ingredients-- flour, baking soda, buttermilk and salt-- our recipe has some added ingredients that make it richer and more flavorful.
Flour – we used all-purpose flour which makes the crumb more tender, although you can use a whole wheat flour to make it more wholesome and nuttier. If you prefer to use self-rising flour instead, which already contains salt and baking powder, you can skip the salt and baking powder for this recipe.
Buttermilk – this is the secret ingredient for moist bread! The acidity in buttermilk (acid) reacts with the baking soda (base), helping the dough to rise. But for this to work well the baking process should be almost immediate. Don’t have buttermilk at home? No worries! Mix a cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon/lime juice and let it rest for at least 10-15 minutes or until it thickens. Or mix ¾ cup of sour cream or Greek yogurt with ½ cup of milk.
TIPS FOR SUCCESS
Mix dough and take it to the oven/crockpot within 3-5 minutes max-- Once buttermilk has been mixed with baking soda, knead the dough quickly, shape into a loaf, score an X on top, and bake or place in the slow cooker right away. Aim for 3-5 minutes, otherwise dough won’t rise as it should.
Don’t over-work the dough! Or you will make your bread dry with a less soft crumb. What that means is, knead the dough less than 10 times, or just enough to mix the ingredients.
Don’t go heavy on the flour. Make sure your working surface to knead the dough is lightly floured. Using too much flour will make the crumb dry.
Shape bread in to a flat ball. This will ensure that the center will cook through without overcooking the ends.
Score the top of the dough with an “X” that is about ¼-inch deep (oven) to ⅓-inch deep (slow cooker) right before baking/cooking. That way, the center of the loaf will bake through.
Bake this yeast-free bread on a baking sheet or in a cast iron skillet (this method will make the crust crispier). Or, cook bread in the crockpot lined with parchment paper.
STORAGEAfter no yeast bread has cooled, wrap with parchment paper and place into a sealed bag, squeezing out as much air as you can. It keeps at room temp for up to 2 days. Freeze for up to 3 months.VARIATIONSThe traditional Irish soda bread is mild in flavor and thus perfect for serving with soups and stews like cabbage soup or Brazilian beef stew (picadinho), simply with a smear of butter, or with jams.To make it more flavorful, add one or a mixture of the following: herbs, garlic powder, grated Parmesan cheese, or caraway seeds, raisins, spices, orange zest, etc. It depends on how savory or sweet you'd like for your bread to be!
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