Irish Soda Bread was also known as Soda Cake in some parts and was referred to as "a cake of bread" rather than a loaf.
As yeast was not so readily available, the rising agent used was bread soda (aka bicarbonate of soda or baking soda) combined with buttermilk (or any fermented sour milk). Flour and a pinch of salt are all else that's needed. (Eggs, sour cream and a little sugar were only added for festive occasions long ago).
Baked in a bastable (pot oven) over an open turf fire, Soda Bread's distinctive feature was the shape of a cross (two insertions made with a knife so that the heat would go through).
How Irish Soda Bread was baked over a fire ~ brought to you from Muckross Traditional Farm in Killarney Co. Kerry.
Griddle bread aka Soda Farls are a smaller variation of the same recipe that was baked on a griddle or gridiron instead of in a pot). However it was cooked, the main delight was to eat it hot with butter!
When flour was a luxury, Oaten bread, Boxty and Stampy were popular alternatives.
How to Make Irish Soda Bread
INGREDIENTS: buttermilk*, plain flour, baking soda, salt.
Can't get your hands on buttermilk? Yoghurt (mixed with milk or water) will do a fine job as a substitute. Alternatively, fresh milk can be soured with lemon juice (grate that rind of the lemon into the mix for a decadent version!)
Can't get your hands on wholewheat flour? Unless your heart is set on brown bread, plain white flour is fine. Or a mix of both. And you don't even need to sift the flour!
You don't need a cake tin, a flat baking tray or pan will do. No need to grease it –lightly dust the pan with flour. Job done!
Heat your oven at 180 C (prep time only takes 10 minutes).
- Add the dry ingredients (4 cups of flour, 1 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda), 1 tsp salt) and whisk together
- Add the buttermilk (2 cups, one at a time as you mix).
- Flour your hands and bring the dough together in a round (add flour or more liquid as needed)
- Place the round of dough on your baking tray score the top with a sharp knife (about halfway through)
- Bake for 35-40 mins until golden brown.
- Test if the bread is cooked by knocking on the underside of the cake when you take it out. If the sound is hollow – it's cooked through.
- Cool on a cooling rack. For a softer crust wrap in a clean teatowel.
- Get the butter ready for spreading! (Add smoked salmon and a drizzle of lemon juice on top for even more oohs and ahhs!)
Over to you...
Want to try your hand at Irish Soda bread?
Here are some of Ireland's best-known celebrity chefs to guide you:
Darina Allen's Traditional Irish Soda Bread ~ brought to you from Ballymaloe in Kilmahon, Co. Cork.
Kevin Dundon's Irish Soda Bread ~ brought to you from Dunbrody, Co. Wexford.
Donal Skehan's Wild Garlic Soda Bread ~ brought to you from Howth, Co. Dublin