This Irish soda bread recipe results in a simple rustic bread made with very few ingredients. Traditional Irish soda bread relies on baking soda as the rising agent and is made without yeast, resulting in a bread that can be quickly mixed and baked immediately.
Irish Soda Bread Recipe Overview
Skill Level: Beginner | Techniques Used: Cutting in Fat
Irish soda bread is a very easy type of bread that is made with baking soda as the leavening agent instead of yeast. The traditional bread consists of only flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk. This modern version also includes butter, which is cut into the flour mixture, to add more tenderness and richness to the bread.
Buttermilk is a key ingredient in soda bread due to its acidic properties. The lactic acid present in buttermilk reacts with the alkaline properties of the baking soda to create carbon dioxide, rising the bread.
History of Irish Soda Bread
Irish soda bread first came to be in the early 1800s when baking soda first became available in Ireland. Most flour available in Ireland at the time was made from soft wheat (meaning it had a low protein content). Soft wheat does not work well to make yeast breads, but it works beautifully for chemically leavened bread.
Soda bread gained huge popularity during the potato famine, which started in 1845. Due to the lack of potatoes, which were a major food source in Ireland, soda bread became an easy, inexpensive, and filling staple on the Irish table.
Everyday Irish soda bread, like this one, was very simple without any add-ins. Versions of soda bread that include dried fruit, nuts, or other additional ingredients were only made for celebrations. However, this base recipe can easily be the template for endless soda bread variations.
Tips, Tricks, & Techniques
- Because soda bread is leavened with baking soda, you want to minimize the gluten formation in the bread. Stir the ingredients together just until the flour is moistened, but do not knead the bread the way you would a yeast bread.
- A dutch oven is truly the best vessel to bake this bread in. If you do not own a dutch oven, the bread can be baked on a sheet pan or in a skillet, however it won’t achieve quite the rise that it gets when baked with a lid on.
- The texture of this bread is a bit like a scone. It is best eaten the same day it is made, however, leftovers can be toasted to refresh them for a few days after.
- This recipe can be used as a base recipe to create different flavor variations. Sugar and currants could be added to create a traditional tea cake style soda bread that is served at celebrations. You could also add fresh herbs or cheese to make a savory variation.
- Flour is the main structure of the bread. There are many variations of soda bread, some made with whole wheat flour, some made with white flour, or a combination of the two.
- Baking Soda is the leavening agent for this bread.
- Salt flavors the bread.
- Butter adds some richness and helps keep the bread tender.
- Buttermilk is the moisture for this bread and its acidic properties activate the baking soda to make the bread rise.
Simple Irish Soda Bread
This is a very basic Irish soda bread made with only 5 ingredients. Irish soda bread is an easy quick bread that is made without yeast and is leavened with baking soda.
- 3 cups (12.75 oz, 357 gr) all-purpose flour (Or a combination of whole wheat & all-purpose flour)
- 1 1/2 tsp Morton kosher salt or table salt (use 1 TBSP if using Diamond kosher)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 cup (2 oz, 56 gr) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
- 1 1/3 cup – 1 2/3 cup (316 ml – 393 ml) buttermilk, cold
- Preheat the oven to 450 F (232 C). Line a 4 or 5 quart dutch oven with parchment paper. If you do not own a dutch oven, you can bake this on a sheet pan or in a skillet, but it will not rise quite as much as it will if you use an enclosed environment.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda until thoroughly combined. Add the pieces of cold butter into the bowl and use a pastry blender or a fork to cut the butter through the flour mixture.
- Add the buttermilk in slowly and use a rubber spatula to stir until a soft dough forms. You want the mixture to be a very soft dough that is almost on the verge of becoming a thick batter. Different varieties of flour are more absorbent than others, so this is why a range of liquid is listed.
- Once you have the desired consistency, transfer the dough into the prepared dutch oven and use the spatula to roughly shape it into a disk. Use a sharp knife, or a bench scraper, to score an X into the dough. You want to cut very deep, almost all the way to the bottom of the dough.
- Put the lid on the dutch oven and put it in the oven. Bake at 450 F (232 C) for 35 minutes. Remove the lid of the dutch oven and bake for another 10-12 minutes until the top is a deep golden brown.
- Serve with butter and salt. This bread is best eaten the day of.
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