Saint Patrick’s Day Baking: Brown Soda Bread with Oats and Molasses

I had my DNA analyzed a year or so ago, and it confirmed what I was already pretty certain of: I am predominately Easter European (My mom’s parents were Ukrainian immigrants), German (PA Dutch through my father) with a smattering of England and Wales, also likely my father’s side.  I’m not the least bit Irish, though the hardships that prompted Irish immigration to the US in the 1800s are strikingly similar to those that propelled my Ukrainian grandparent’s families to flee Galicia in the early 1900s.  While I lack a genetic connection to Ireland my wife and daughter do have Irish heritage.  That means that for Saint Patrick’s Day we did the quintessential Irish-American dinner: Corned beef and cabbage and soda bread.  Corned beef was adopted by Irish immigrants to the US who learned about it from Jewish immigrants with whom they were crowded into urban tenements. It is not or at least was not common in Ireland.  As one food historian pointed out, both beef and salt would have been prohibitively expensive for most Irish in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Furthermore, cattle were used predominately for dairy production or for field work. Soda bread, however, was a staple in Ireland since the introduction of baking soda as a leavening agent in the 1800s.

So, I made our dinner of corned beef and cabbage and soda bread.  The corned beef was fine, the potatoes and cabbage were good, but the standout was the soda bread.  Here is the recipe (adapted from the Complete Irish Pub Cookbook)

Brown Soda Bread with Molasses and Oats

2 Cups all purpose flour

2 Cups whole wheat flour

1/2 Cup rolled oats (plus extra to sprinkle on top)

1 1/2 Teaspoons salt

1 Teaspoon baking soda

1 3/4 Cups buttermilk

2 Tablespoons molasses


  1. Preheat oven to 450° F.  Line a baking sheet or pan with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix
  3. In a measuring glass or pitcher stir together the molasses and buttermilk.  Form a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk mixture reserving just a teaspoon.  Using a fork, spatula or your hands (my preference) stir the liquid, gradually pulling in the dry ingredients until well combine.  Dump the dough onto a surface dusted lightly with flour and knead the dough until fully combined and smooth.
  4. Shape the dough into a circle and press flat to a thickness of about 2 inches and place on the parchment lined sheet or pan.  Brush the top with the remaining teaspoon of buttermilk mixture and sprinkle the top with additional oats and lightly press them into the surface (this bit is optional).  Cut a cross into the top of the dough with a sharp knife or lamé.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes at 450°F.  Reduce the oven temp to 400° F and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes.  You know it is done when the bread sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.  I suppose if you want to be certain you can also use and instant read thermometer–the internal temp should be about 180° F.


soda bread



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