Whisk the buttermilk and egg together then set aside.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl then whisk together. If you’re adding raisins or currants then mix those in now.
Add the butter to the flour mixture then work into small pea sized pieces with your hands or a pastry cutter.
Create a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour the buttermilk mixture in. Use a spatula to fold the mixture together until all the flour has been worked in.
Transfer the dough to your lightly floured surface, form into a loaf and place onto a parchment lined baking sheet or seasoned cast iron pan.
Score the top with an “X” and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the center is set. Tent the bread with foil if the top is getting too much color.
Allow to cool then serve.
For a sweet Irish soda bread - you can add any kind of dried fruit you like such as cranberries, raisins, or currants. You can also add in orange zest or cinnamon.
For a savory Irish soda bread - you can leave the bread plain or add in cheese and herbs such as cheddar, parmesan, fresh parsley, or rosemary.
You can also add seeds to your bread such as caraway seeds (aniseed flavor), sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds.
Make sure to score the top to better control the expansion of the loaf during baking.
Don't overwork the dough or it'll be too dense, it's supposed to look rustic and uneven so don't worry about shaping it into a smooth loaf.
Bake the loaf on a lined baking sheet or cast iron skillet, I recommend using a cast iron skillet if you have one as it provides a crispier outer crust.
Don't use a loaf pan or your bread won't bake evenly.
Buttermilk is an essential ingredient not only for flavor but it helps activate the baking soda which helps the bread rise. If you don't have it then follow my recipe for making buttermilk at home it takes just 10 minutes and all you need is milk and lemon juice.
Using cold butter is another top tip if your butter is warm or at room temperature, your dough will be too sticky and it'll affect the end result. If you have warm hands then use a pastry cutter.
When measuring the flour, fluff the flour in its canister first then spoon it into cups and level it off with a knife. This stops you from over-packing the cup and using too much flour. If you have a kitchen scale to weigh the flour do so for more accurate results.
Storage - the bread will keep for 1-2 days wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or can be frozen for up to 3 months.