Making a Traditional Irish Soda Bread

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Whether made once per year to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day or enjoyed as an “everyday” bread, Irish Soda Bread is great to have in our arsenal of recipes in the home kitchen.  I’ve been making it for several years now, enjoying its wonderful simplicity and the pleasure of keeping an old tradition alive.

I’ve purposely titled this post “Making a Traditional Irish Soda Bread” because although there are variations in both the type of flour used and exact cooking methods, Traditional Irish Soda Bread is made with only 4 ingredients (flour, buttermilk, salt, and baking soda).  Other versions may include ingredients like sugar, raisins, butter, or currants. To traditionalists, such as the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread, the addition of those items would constitute making a “Tea Cake”, not a “Bread”.

Irish Soda Bread is a Quick Bread by definition, leavened by baking soda, not yeast or eggs, with no “rise time” required. The chemistry for the leavening takes place between the buttermilk and the baking soda, which work together to form a gas. Knead very lightly, just enough to get a dough ball to form.  As soon as the dough is mixed, it is ready to go into the oven.  Do not overwork, as doing will make the bread too dense.   This wonderful video clip from the old Julia Child program is an excellent reference!

With the use of bread flour (which I use in all of my baked breads), I find it important to measure to 16 oz. by weight, not volume.   If using All Purpose Flour, measuring out 4 cups by volume works fine.  As with any bread, if the mixture is too dry, a little extra buttermilk may be added.

I do hope you enjoy this and find yourself making this all-year round.

Ingredients:

16 oz. (by weight) Bread Flour
14 oz. Buttermilk (Sour Milk* may be substituted)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. kosher salt

Instructions:

  • Preheat an oven to 450F.
  • Combine 16 oz. bread flour, 1 tsp. baking soda, & 1 tsp. kosher salt in a large, wide bowl.  Stir to disperse well.
  • Add 14 oz. of buttermilk.
  • Hand mix until a sticky ball forms, transfer to a floured surface and form into a round loaf shape, about 8″.
  • Transfer to a lightly floured baking sheet or cast iron skillet
  • Make a cross-cut with a knife (it’s tradition!)
  • Bake 15 minutes at 450F
  • Lower temperature to 400F. Bake for another 20 minutes. The bread should sound hollow when tapped on its bottom.
  • Remove from the oven and cool on wire rack.
  • Slice and Enjoy!
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An abbreviated recipe with reference pictures.

*Sour milk may be made by pouring 2 tbsp of vinegar or lemon juice in the bottom of a 2 cup measure and pouring 16 oz. of milk over it.  Let sit for 10-15 minutes.  (Truth be told, I’m pretty frugal, and often make my own sour milk for my Irish Soda Bread).

Sources:

The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread: http://www.sodabread.info/

Julia Child makes Irish Soda Bread: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUnkKA2xzZQ

Mummy’s Brown Irish Soda Bread from Darina Allen: http://kerrygoldusa.com/recipe/mummys-brown-irish-soda-bread-from-darina-allen/

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