Recipes for Irish Soda Bread

Yeast vs. Soda Bread

In spite of its name, Irish soda bread does not have its roots in Ireland. The earliest reference to baking bread using soda rather than yeast comes from the American Indians, who leavened their bread using potash, a type of soda that comes from wood ashes. Baking soda was introduced to Ireland around 1800 and quickly became popular as a bread-leavening agent, since it worked especially well with the soft wheat flour that was available in Ireland during that time period. Soda bread was also popular on the American frontier, where it was often difficult to obtain the ingredients for yeast breads.

Americanized soda bread recipes often call for ingredients such as raisins, nuts and caraway seeds, but traditional Irish soda bread only contains four basic ingredients – flour, buttermilk, salt and baking soda. All-purpose flour may be used by itself, but some bakers prefer to use cake flour, or to mix cake flour and all-purpose flour together, since cake flour more closely resembles the soft wheat flour of Ireland.

White Soda Bread

Ingredients:

4 cups of all-purpose flour, or 3 cups flour and 1 cup cake flour

1 ¾ cups buttermilk

1 ½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients thoroughly with a whisk or flour sifter. Add buttermilk and mix until the ingredients come together. Add more buttermilk if the mixture is too dry. The dough will be sticky and slightly lumpy. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead about a dozen
turns until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed but not smooth. Shape the mixture into a rounded form about 2 inches high, and cut a cross about an inch down into the top of the dough to allow the ingredients in the center to cook evenly. Bake in a greased cake pan or on a cookie sheet for 30-40 minutes. You can tell when it's done by tapping on the bottom of the loaf. If it sounds hollow, the bread is fully cooked. Avoid the temptation to tear into the bread the minute it comes out of the oven. Freshly-cooked soda bread is doughy and has a biscuit-like texture, and it needs an hour or two to cool and set before it is ready for the table.

Brown Soda Bread

3 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup cake flour

1 ¾ cups of buttermilk

1 ½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoon baking soda

Mix ingredients together in a large bowl and knead until the mixture is smooth. Shape into a slightly-flattened disc and cut a cross in the middle. Bake on a lightly floured baking sheet at 400 degrees F for 35-40 minutes.

There is no hard and fast rule to baking soda bread. Feel free to adjust the recipe according to taste and to experiment with different ingredients. If your first attempt doesn’t come out exactly like you had in mind, keep tweaking the recipe until you get that delicious golden-brown loaf.

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