Oatmeal Irish Soda Bread

Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Neh 8:10

Trio Bread Pic

Every St. Patrick’s Day dinner is a mirror image of the preceding year – New England Boiled Dinner with Corned Beef & Cabbage, along with freshly-baked Oatmeal Irish Soda Bread. The conversation is pretty much a mirror image of the year before, too, now that I think about it. The first question asked of me by my family, their mouths still full from their first bite of bread is usually, “I’d forgotten how good this is! Why don’t we have this bread all the time?”

I suppose, poor things, my response is the same, year-in, year-out. “We can! I mean, I will! I just have to remember!” There’s no excuse for not serving it more often. It’s easy to make, nutritious, and goes well with our rustic-country way of eating. There’s just a little part of me that is concerned, if I make this bread more often, they’ll grow tried of it, and it will no longer be quite as special as when they only eat it once a year.

Having feasts, using food as a basis for remembering and giving thanks, is an example used throughout the Bible. While we’re not Roman Catholic, but instead of the Reformed faith, we do take time on St. Patrick’s Day to give thanks to the Lord for His Providence, using St. Patrick who had an…

…inspiring, humble life not devoted to superstitious beliefs of lucky shamrocks, but instead, spent with a tireless devotion to Christ who provided for all his needs. It is a life well lived through Faith, one that I vow my children will learn in place of the cartoons and fairy tales of a superstitious pagan people. 2006 blog entry

On the other hand, when we traveled through Ireland, Irish Soda Bread was a constant at every meal, no matter the region, always nicely presented in a napkin-lined basket, accompanied by a bowl of fresh, deep-gold, Irish butter.

As varied as the shades of green across Ireland’s landscape, there are as many Irish Soda Bread recipes, which I managed to collect a few favorites from innkeepers and chefs. The fact that they all handed me a readily-available, neatly typed and photocopied recipe, is no reason to think I was not the first one asking for their recipe or that their recipe was any less quaint.

This year’s bread, I substituted buttermilk with my homemade Quark, a type of creme fraiche made from farm-fresh grass-fed real (unpasteurized, so it hasn’t been turned to a poison) milk. My husband said he preferred it over last year’s buttermilk version. Me? This is just one of those quick breads that is so satisfying, I’m not sure I have a preference.

I’ve also made this bread with kefir, with equally great results. Our kefir is made with goat milk, and in general, goat milk makes for a more tender, softer product – still tasty, but tends to fall apart just a little more easily.

Rustic Irish Soda Bread
Irish Soda Oatmeal Bread

Make the batter at least 12-hours before you intend to serve this bread.

Mix Wet Ingredients

  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 cups cultured (real) buttermilk, whole-fat grass-fed yogurt, Quark with 3 T whey added, or kefir
  • 3 TB dark molasses or black treacle

  1. Mix oat, dairy product of choice and molasses together in a glass bowl.
  2. Allow to sit at room temperature for 15-minutes.
  3. In the meantime, stir together the dry ingredients, in another container.

Mix Dry Ingredients

  • 3 cups whole wheat flour, preferably stone ground
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for working dough
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar

  1. Stir dry ingredients thoroughly, with a whisk.
  2. Pour dry into the wet, stirring with a wooden spoon JUST until combined.
  3. Knead dough 3 or 4 times on a lightly flour surface.
  4. Dividing dough in half.
  5. Pat each half down, gently, into a 6” diameter loaf.
  6. With sharp knife, score the loaves into quarters, cutting 1-inch down. (Shape will be a cross, something the Pagan Irish felt would keep the Devil out of their bread.)
  7. Wrap each round in plastic, placing on a plate or cookie sheet, room temperature, a minimum of 12 hours. After 12 hours, if you’re not ready to bake the loaves, refrigerate for up to 2 days.
  8. When ready to bake, heat oven to 400°F.
  9. Place loaves on ungreased baking sheet.
  10. Bake for 15 minutes.
  11. Reduce heat to 350°F and bake for 20-minutes longer, or until loaves are brown on top and hollow sounding when tapped on bottom.
  12. Allow to cool for 10-minutes before slicing.
  13. Cut slices 3/4-inch wide, the entire width of the boule, and then cut in half again.