Irish Brown Soda Bread: Wheaten Bread (Arán Sóide)

© Copyright 2012, Tracy Lynn Conway, with all rights reserved.

Humans are culinary animals: We cook our food, we mess around with it, we season it, we change it, and we have done so from the very earliest times. Indeed, cooking, like language or art, is one of those fundamental behaviors that define us as human and distinguish us from other animals. ~Elisabeth Rozin

Scattery Island, County Clare, Ireland
Scattery Island, County Clare, Ireland | Source
A markerscattery island, Ireland -
Scattery Island, Leadmore, Co. Clare, Ireland
[get directions]

Soda Bread History

In Europe, soda breads began to appear in the mid-19th century when bicarbonate of soda first became available for use as a rising agent. Breads, griddle cakes and scones with bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar or tartaric acid became popular in Austria, Polish cuisine (as do Pieczenia-Proziaki) and in the British Isles.*

Various forms of soda bread are popular throughout Ireland. Soda breads are made using either wholemeal or white flour. In Ulster, the wholemeal variety is usually known as wheaten bread and normally sweetened, while the term "soda bread" is restricted to the white savoury form. In more southern parts of Ireland, the wholemeal variety is usually known as brown soda and is almost identical to the Ulster wheaten.

*Source: English Bread and Yeast Cookery, Elizabeth David


I am not sure what I expected to find on my first solo trip abroad. I had just graduated from college and was given the opportunity to take part in a restoration project on a 6thCentury Monastery Village on Scattery Island, off the coast of County Clare, Ireland. As much as I loved college, I couldn’t wait to graduate and follow my dream of traveling; little knowing that this trip would leave such a lasting impression on me, or that it was in my cards to meet my husband within a few days of arriving on the romantic and mystical Emerald Isle.



It didn’t take more than a few hours to discover the pride that the native Irish have for their homeland. I found myself surrounded by a people in love with life, their Irish heritage and a mesmerizing mastery of language and conversation. My dry American dialect paled in comparison. Although all of these things would easily draw any interested world traveler to reserve an airplane ticket to the Emerald Isle, it was the Irish Soda bread, also known as wheaten bread , that left me craving yet another trip back to Eire, my adopted homeland. Growing up on bread that, thanks to chemical stabilizers and other preservatives, sat on a store shelf for longer than it should and then discovering the abundance of fresh bread in Ireland alone was a thrill. When I first tasted Irish Soda Bread I realized that this variety of bread could bring my culinary experience to a higher level; there is really nothing like it!

While working on Scattery Island each day, my coworkers and I would take turns walking the few blocks to the bakery to purchase a fresh loaf. It came wrapped in wax paper and we would cut it into wedges and share it with a cup of tea and jolly good conversation. Though many years ago, I remember it well.


More recently, as a Mother with a dinner menu that was falling into a rut, I found myself searching through the cookbook section of the local library for something new and interesting, when I happened upon a book on the topic of classic Irish cooking. I instantly flipped through this well-aged book, intently searching for a Soda Bread Recipe; I could nearly taste the bread with it's grainy satisfying texture. Then, BINGO, I found an authentic recipe and went home to try it out. Sadly, that first attempt came out too heavy and dry, I guessed that the recipe didn’t translate from one continent to the next; maybe it was the elevation or perhaps the humidity level differential. I nearly lost hope that I would be able to make a decent loaf of my own, instead though, I became determined to find a recipe that worked.


Fireplace, Bunratty Castle, Ireland
Fireplace, Bunratty Castle, Ireland | Source

Although I never did find the perfect recipe, I began a process of elimination to figure out what was working and what was not. First I tweaked the whole wheat to white flour ratio to half and half. This I found, provided the whole wheat flavor, taste and texture without struggling with an uncooked or dense center. I learned that originally this bread was cooked over a hearth in a heavy pot called a dutch oven or bastible pot, and that by substituting my own pot and cooking it in the oven I could trap in the moisture that was being lost and causing the bread to come out dry.

Many traditional recipes insist that buttermilk made the difference in this bread and that there is a chemical reaction between the buttermilk and the soda, but I have not found this to be the case. I have instead, found that using whole milk tastes the same and saves me time. Since I wouldn’t normally have buttermilk in my refrigerator but always have whole milk, I am able whip up my soda bread at a moment’s notice.


5 stars from 3 ratings of Irish Brown Soda Bread

Cook Time

Prep time: 8 min
Cook time: 45 min
Ready in: 53 min
Yields: Serves 6-8 people

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 cups white flour
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk or buttermilk
  • Parchment paper - approx 8 inch circle

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 C).
  2. Line the bottom of the pot with parchment paper.
  3. In large bowl, stir together whole wheat flour, white flour, rolled oats, baking soda (break any clumps with hands) and salt. Gently mix in the milk until a soft dough is formed (If dry, add more milk or water). Lightly knead until combined and form into a rounded flat loaf.
  4. Using a knife, mark the loaf with an 'X'.
  5. Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes. Leave the bread to cool with the lid on to keep the moisture in. Delicious served warm with cream cheese, butter or as a compliment to stew. Enjoy!

Sláinte!

"To Your Health!"

An alternative version handed down through generations

Experience the spiritual sound of Gaelic, the ancestral language of the Irish

More by this Author


Comments 19 comments

kelleyward 4 years ago

I love your recipe hubs. There are so complete and attractive looking. Thanks for the easy to follow directions and pictures. Given 5 stars. Kelley


Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 4 years ago from Virginia, USA Author

Hi Kelleyward,

So nice to see you here! I am so glad that you enjoyed this hub. Thank you for the compliments and the stars!

Best, Tracy


ksinll 4 years ago

I love soda bread. This seems like a simple and easy recipe. Can't wait to try it!


Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 4 years ago from Virginia, USA Author

Ksinll,

It is a simple recipe, there is no real work with this one and so healthy too. I hope you enjoy it. Thank you.

Best, Tracy


ChristyWrites profile image

ChristyWrites 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

In particular I like the intro before the recipe. Your experiences in Ireland are intriguing! I vote up and useful. Did I mention that I'm hungry now?


NateB11 profile image

NateB11 4 years ago from California, United States of America

I love how you draw the reader in with your wonderfully descriptive story of visiting Ireland and tasting some good, fresh baked bread; I do love fresh baked bread, as well as other such things as fresh baked pastries. This Irish Soda Bread sounds divine!


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 4 years ago from Germany

Yummy! I love soda bread, too. I sometimes make it with buttermilk when I´m craving for it. Thanks for sharing. Have a great weekend!


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois

Tracy - Your Irish soda bread looks perfect. What a wonderful experience you must have had in Ireland - with the added bonus of not only discovering this bread, but also your husband-to-be.


vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

I've never found a recipe for Irish soda bread that I liked, so I'm happy to discover yours. After reading your commentary I feel confident I can pull it off, and I appreciate that you've shared a recipe you've developed over the years. Thanks so much!


Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 4 years ago from Virginia, USA Author

ChristyWrites,

It sounds like Irish Soda Bread has the same effect on you that it does on me. I am glad you liked the personal intro and thank you so much for the votes.

NateB11,

Nothing compares to fresh bread and pastries, as you say. The idea reminds me of a German girl that I know; when she moved to the U.S. she refused to eat any packaged bread that sat on the store shelf. Thank you for mentioning that you enjoyed my story approach leading into the recipe. The bread IS divine. Thank you for the great comment!

Thelma Alberts,

I have read your recipe hubs; I bet your soda bread is delicious.

Ktrapp,

There must have been a two for one deal that year through Aer Lingus and I fared quite well. Seriously though, thank you so much!

Vespawoolf,

I hope that this recipe works for you, gosh I was just so determined to get it right and I am glad I can pass it along. Thank you!


penlady profile image

penlady 4 years ago from Sacramento, CA

I've never tried soda bread. I read a hub earlier today on a recipe that makes me feel like I'm missing out on a good meal. I feel that same about this one too.

It's looks really good! Thanks for sharing - I've gotta try this one! Voted up and awesome.


Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 4 years ago from Virginia, USA Author

Penlady - I highly suggest that you try this recipe out! Soda bread is very unlike yeast leavened bread, the texture feels entirely different. Not only is this bread unique, hearty and satisfying it is so much more faster and simpler to make than a yeast leavened bread. Thank you for the comment!

Best, Tracy


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

Tracy, the recipe seems pretty easy, though the bread looks awesome. Bookmarking this, will be trying it out soon.

Voting up, useful and sharing.


Don Bobbitt profile image

Don Bobbitt 4 years ago from Ruskin Florida

What a Great Hub I can't wait to make this one!


Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 4 years ago from Virginia, USA Author

Rajan - The bread is easy and healthy, I am so pleased that I was able to replicate the delectable Irish Soda Bread that I came to love. I hope you enjoy it too! Thank you so much for commenting, voting and sharing.

Don - I hope you like it, thank you very much!

Best, Tracy


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

Tracy, great hub. I have bookmarked and pinned too. love making bread at home though I use a breadmaker but it also makes just the dough so you can cook it in the oven. I am going to give this a try some time. I love the way you experimented until you found a flavour close to what you had tasted on Scattery Island. Happy eating!


Peanutritious profile image

Peanutritious 4 years ago from Cheshire, UK

My irish grandma used to make this, it's absolutely gorgeous. She's 94 now so doesn't make it so much these days! It really has a special taste all of it's own. Sainsbury's and Tesco (in the UK) have their own that's lovely but nothing tastes as good as home made!


TesstheScribbler profile image

TesstheScribbler 4 years ago from At Home

I've never seen the wheat version of Irish soda bread, it looks even more appetizing! And you searched so hard to find a good recipe, great job =)


Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy Lynn Conway 4 years ago from Virginia, USA Author

Jools99 - I also use a bread machine to make various types of bread and it is lots of fun, needless to say there is nothing like fresh bread. Irish Soda bread is a quick bread and does not require the kind of kneading that a yeast bread would so there is no need to use the bread machine. I was quite determined to get this recipe right, but now I need another excuse to travel back to Ireland. Thanks you for the great comment!

Peanutritious - I am so jealous that you can buy soda bread at the super market and how lucky you are to have a Grandmother that can make this bread as well. I agree that homemade is best. Thank you for the great comment!

TesstheScribbler - I love the hearty taste and nutritional benefits of whole wheat flour and it is all the better when the whole wheat version tastes the best. Thank you!

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