Irish-ish soda bread

In my last post I introduced you to some of my Scottish ancestors. Today’s recipe is a tip of the hat to the Irish peasants in my lineage.

A few weeks ago I decided to have a go at making soda bread. This Irish staple is about as simple as bread making can be – flour mixed with water, salt, bicarbonate soda and (traditionally) buttermilk. The dough takes no kneading or rising — just mix, form and throw in the oven. In other words, this is the bread recipe for lazy or baking-shy sods like me!

My traditional-ish loaf.

Another advantage of soda bread is that the rising isn’t dependent on the gluten in the flour (as with yeast bread). Instead the bread is given lift through a reaction between the bicarb soda and the acid in the buttermilk. This means lower-gluten (‘soft’) flours can be used without compromising the chemical reaction.

I trawled the internet a bit to find the right recipe (read: the recipe with the fewest ingredients) and ended up trying two options. The first used yoghurt in place of the buttermilk. I also used a mix of Kamut and regular flour for this loaf. The dough was very sticky, but came together fairly easily.

The second loaf was made using a recipe from the very endearingly named website. This site has a comprehensive history section, which informs their slightly prescriptive statements about what is ‘true’ soda bread. My yogurt loaf wouldn’t have qualified, however delicious it was.

The revolutionary yogurt loaf.

The recipe from the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread website stuck close to tradition, although I made two adaptations. I substituted rye flour for the wholewheat flour and also used an instant soured milk in place of buttermilk, as the latter is impossible to find in Italy.

To make instant buttermilk mix one tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice into one cup of milk. Leave for a few minutes and it is ready to use.

The second dough was much drier than the first, although it rose well in the oven. On balance I think I preferred the yogurt loaf, but only marginally. Both loaves were gobbled up quickly in our house of six people. The bread was quite dense but toasted beautifully. The taste was a little like English scones, particularly when slices of toasted bread were paired with butter and plum jam!

All in all soda bread was a fun experiment, and something I’ll definitely cook in the future. It wouldn’t lend itself to all uses – I can’t imagine making sandwiches or bruschetta on this bread – but for afternoon tea it can’t be beaten.

Soda bread with yoghurt

450g wholemeal flour (I used half kamut, half white flour)
2 teaspoons bicarbonate soda
300ml whole yogurt
150ml warm water
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 200°C. Mix flour, bicarb soda and salt then stir in the yogurt and water.

Turn onto a floured surface and knead just until the dough comes together. Form into a round ball and place on a flat baking tray. Cut a deep cross into the top of the dough.

Bake for 30 minutes, reduce the heat to 180°C and bake for a further 20 minutes. To test if the loaf is ready tap the bottom – if it sounds hollow it’s done.

Traditional(ish) soda bread

4 cups wholewheat flour (I used rye)
2 cups white flour
1.5 teaspoons bicarbonate soda
2 cups buttermilk
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 220°C. Mix the dry ingredients and then gradually mix in the buttermilk.

Turn onto a floured surface and knead just until the dough comes together. Form into a round ball and place on a flat baking tray. Cut a deep cross into the top of the dough.

Bake at 220°C for 25 minutes then reduce the heat to 180°C for a further 15 minutes.

5 Responses to Irish-ish soda bread

  1. i like that very paris photo of you that is now up there..hey what are you going to do without my brushed stone kitchen top for your photos background after next week?

    • it’s a Venice photo thank you very much! Your bench tops have provided a beautiful background and I’ll miss them! I’ve got plans for Mum’s lovely kitchen table though! J

  2. This bread with plum jam and butter = heaven.

  3. no need to say… I want to try!!!
    Especially after having read the Husband’s reply. :)
    How are you, happy couple? Ready to go back down to Australia?

    • Hi Anna, I hope it goes well for you! We also just tried another loaf with some sultanas, cinnamon (cannella) and nutmeg in it, very yummy! We’re good. Happy to be going home and sad to be leaving at the same time, it’s a confusing feeling. We’re already making plans to come back for a visit next year though, hopefully we might be able to catch up :) Jx

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