There is a lot of history to Irish Soda bread which was not, according to many sources, developed by the Irish. Here is a link to The Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread. It gives a good reading on the history of soda bread.
Here is a link to a site that is called European Cuisines and discusses Soda Bread. I found it very informative about the European take on Soda Bread.
There are many variations on soda bread and the ones considered true soda breads are quite plain. The dough rises through a chemical reaction between the soda and buttermilk. Adding dried fruit or orange zest or nuts does make a tasty bread but these are considered tea breads, not soda breads.
The bread is crazy easy to put together. Irish soda bread is a good one to teach children for a first baking experience. The hardest part is waiting for it to cook as the bread needs about 45 minutes to an hour. I am happy to report that eating a slice as soon as it is cool enough to handle is a delightful reward for patience.
I was amazed how delicious the bread was because I was a big skeptic.. I thought it would be really dense and heavy tasting. Instead the bread was light, bright tasting and very tender. Having some sharp cheddar cheese and a dab of orange marmalade made my afternoon tea a real pleasure.
The bread does not keep though and after a day, its fate was croutons which I tossed in olive oil and lots of herbs so it tasted completely different.
Having great success with Meredith's recipe, I thought I would experiment with others to get some perspective. I found a web site that was so interesting,I bookmarked it. It is the called Bord Bia-Irish Food Board and they had a recipe for Brown Soda Bread that I just had to try. The bread tasted very different than Meredith's recipe. It was a bit heavier and rich tasting with a hint of sweetness from the honey. I am thinking some rum soaked raisins mixed into the batter would put it over the top for taste and make a wonderful morning toast. I put some local jelly on it, Dalby Farms Strawberry Butter. It is really a jelly, not a butter but it was so smooth and creamy tasting with a powerful strawberry flavor, that the mouthfeel was definitely butter.
I am keeping Meredith's recipe handy. I love fresh bread with dinner, especially stews. As Autumns is giving us cooler evenings, I am looking forward to whipping up a loaf of this bread to get those delicious broth from a hearty vegetable soup.
Irish Soda Bread (I halved this recipe to make a smaller loaf)
- 2½ cups (625 ml) sour milk or buttermilk
- 2 cups (500 ml) (300 gm) (10½ oz) whole wheat four (see note above on how to measure flour)
- 4 cups (1000 ml) (600 gm) (21 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour (see note above on how to measure flour)
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm) baking soda
- 1 teaspoon (6 gm) salt
1. Preheat oven to hot 450°F/ 230°C/gas mark 8 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Mix the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. (I do this by hand, but you could use a mixer if you’d prefer.)
3. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients.
4. Pour the sour milk/buttermilk into the well.
5.Mix the dough until the flour is completely incorporated. (It will be very stiff. I find it helpful to knead the dough by hand a few times while it is still in the bowl to make sure all of the flour is incorporated before moving on to the next step.)
6.Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet.
7. Pat or roll the dough into a circle shape that is approximately 1 inch (2½ cm) thick.
Using your fingertips or the blunt end of a wooden spoon handle, make several dimples in the top of the dough. (This is very similar to the technique used when making focaccia bread.)
8. Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the preheated hot oven and bake for 30 minutes.
9. Reduce the heat to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6. Pull the baking sheet out from under the dough, so the parchment is directly on the oven rack. Bake for 10 more minutes or until the top is golden brown.
- 250g whole wheat flour
- 200g all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 350 ml buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon honey
- Optional Topping: 1 tablespoon sesame seeds or pinhead oats
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6. 200 degrees C(400F)
Mix the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. combine the egg with the buttermilk and honey, then mix into the flour. Add more buttermilk if the batter seems dry-it should be a soft dough. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bread pan. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds or oats, if using.
Bake for 45 minutes to an hour- it will sound hollow when it is fully cooked.( Evelyn's tip: use an instant read thermometer to determine doneness and the temp. should be around 200 degrees F.)Remove from the pan and wrap the bread in a clean dish towel to keep the crust soft. I did not do this step because I like the slight crunchiness of the exterior.