Blog posts

Irish Guinness & Soda Bread

Irish Guinness & Soda Bread


New friends have me thinking of old ones.

St Patrick’s Day fare is all over the foodosphere at the moment, and I find my memories hitching a ride on visions of corned beef and potato cakes, transporting me back almost 20 years to a summer spent exploring, amongst other places, Dublin and the counties beyond.

Stephanie over at OkieDokieArtichokie has created a masterful dessert involving Guinness, bread pudding and homemade ice cream.  Add that to the recipe for soda bread that The Mom Chef posted last week, and I simply couldn`t let March 17th go by without adding 1 or 2 of my own Irish-inspired dishes to the collection.


Me, Jessica and Mikki enjoying a pint somewhere in Dublin.  Although their hair looks normal, I feel compelled to explain mine by reminding you that this picture is from 1991.  Apparently, me and my perm were reluctant to leave the 80’s behind — there’s no denying the photographic evidence.


After all this time I still carry a little bit of Ireland in me, including a love for room temperature stout, an appreciation for what makes a pub a pub (and not a bar) and the memories of a private, after-hours tour of U2`s Dublin studio that made us the envy of EVERYBODY at the time.  

But it was my second visit, 2 years later, that delivered the most important Irish Impact of them all.  In a small town on the west coast of Ireland, I met Yvonne, a fellow traveler who eventually took me back to her flat in England and introduced me to her best friend, and my future husband, Howard.  Sixteen years of wedded bliss later,  it may be time to put the whole story down on paper screen.


But I’ll do that later in the week — today is about soda bread, and it’s time I got on with it.

Irish soda bread is a dense loaf, risen with baking soda rather than yeast.  It’s rustic looking, with a crisp crust and crumbly, scone like texture.  I love it served alongside soup with a thick spread of butter.  It also makes a quick breakfast with a slice of cheese and a little dollop of jam.

Most traditional soda bread recipes also include raisins or currants — this one from Gourmet Magazine does not.  I live with someone who actively campaigns against dried fruit of any kind and in any form, so I didn’t add them, but a few raisins would make a great addition to my adapted Guinness loaf.  Add about 1/2 cup of raisins to the reduced Guinness while it’s still hot, and allow them to soak while it cools.


I halved the original recipe, because unless you have a family of 10 or so, no one needs 3 big loaves of soda bread.  I also substituted Guinness for a little more than half of the buttermilk called for in the original recipe.  Reducing the Guiness on the stove allowed me to add the flavour from the whole can without it forming too wet a dough.

Next time, I would make two smaller loaves instead of the one bigger one you see above.  FYI, I scored the loaf too deeply.  Make your slashes a little more shallow.

Downey’s Soda Bread (with Guinness)
inspired by The Mom Chef; adapated from Gourmet Magazine

1 can Guinness Draught
2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour 
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting
3 tble dark brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk at room temperature
1 large egg at room temperature, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 425°F and put the rack in the center.

Empty the Guinness into a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over med-high heat.  Reduce to 2/3 cup, pour into a glass cup and refrigerate until cooled to room temp.

Blend the wheat and white flour, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, and butter in a large bowl, using a pastry blender or your fingers until the mixture has the texture of coarse meal.

Stir in the buttermilk and lightly beaten egg until a smooth dough forms (handling as little as possible. Do not knead). Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Divide it into 2 equal pieces, form into balls and place on a lightly floured cast iron pan or baking sheet.  Sprinkle each loaf with flour and use a sharp knife to slash a shallow cross into the tops.

Bake at 425°F for 25 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and continue to bake about 15 minutes longer, or until done a wooden skewer inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean.

Transfer loaves to a rack to cool. Serve at room temperature with butter and/or cheese.  Wrap leftovers well for consumption the next day.