Irish soda bread, plain and simple—and not green

To accompany your corned beef & cabbage, or maybe Irish stew, or even possibly boxty, for the more hardcore St. Patrick’s Day cooks among us, there must be soda bread. Irish soda bread comes in many colors and styles of tricked-outedness, lots of them made with majority regular flour and sweeteners also seem to have currants or sultanas in there. And they can be really, really good.

However, my soda bread is not like that. It’s whole wheat, with some oats added in case that isn’t whole-grainy enough already. It’s good, too—so good I would be sorely remiss if I did not make the recipe available today, if only to try in a small way to counter the unfortunate American March 17th traditions of dyed-green beer and drunken-leprechaun imagery.

Symbolic protest of negative stereotypes aside, this is a bread that will stand you in good stead, whether accompanying one of the aforementioned or another dish, or maybe sliced thinly and topped with a ribbon of smoked salmon and a few capers. (Irish smoked salmon would certainly be nice, but Pacific Northwest is a fine fallback.) And of course merely toasted, spread with salty butter and some kind of preserve ain’t nothing to sneeze at, neither.

Whole Wheat-Oatmeal Soda Bread

(Makes 2 loaves.)

4 cups whole-wheat flour (plus additional 2 tablespoons for sprinkling)

3/4 cup rolled oats

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups buttermilk, approximately

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine flour, oats, baking soda, and salt in large mixer bowl and use flat paddle to mix. Add almost all the buttermilk, mixing on low speed, until dough is cohesive and workable—might not need the whole amount, or might even need a bit more. Dough should be moist.

Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead gently a couple of times. Divide in half, and form each into a smooth ball. Gently flatten each to about 2 inches high. (For one large loaf, form ball and flatten in the same way, but 2-1/2 or 3 inches high.) Sprinkle top of loaves with reserved whole-wheat flour, place on parchment-lined baking sheet, and cut large X to about ½-inch depth with serrated knife.

Bake about 30 minutes for small loaves and up to 45 minutes for large. Test for doneness by knocking on the bottom—it’ll sound hollow when done. Let cool completely before slicing.

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