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Published by Amy
Happy St Patrick’s Day! Having shared a couple of Welsh recipes for St David’s Day earlier this month, it seemed only right that I shared an Irish recipe for today. And what is a more iconic Irish bake than Soda Bread?
Similar to that of our Welsh Cakes and Bara Brith recipes, I was keen to seek the advice of some Irish friends before delving too deeply into the world of Soda Bread and claiming to be an expert in a field that isn’t my usual Scottish domain. Lucky for me, I have a good number of Irish friends.
Did you know that 90% of optometrists working in Scotland are from Ireland? Ok, that’s maybe not a fact (it might be!) but from my experience of working in optics for nearly a decade, I can honestly say that the overwhelming majority of optometrists that I worked with did grow up in Ireland. And they are the sole reason for me now over-using the word “grand”.
Despite having not worked with eyes in 5 years (!!) now, I still keep contact with a good few of them, a couple of whom were more than happy to assist with my Soda Bread questions.
But first of all…what is Soda Bread?
Soda Bread is a yeast-free bread, made with just a few ingredients, with no need to knead; meaning it can be made and baked in as little as 40 minutes [total time].
Unlike yeast breads, soda bread relies on the reaction between the bicarbonate of soda and the acid in the buttermilk to give it it’s rise, as well as it’s familiar flavour.
In terms of texture, it is quite a dense bread and slightly chewy. It has a crunchy crust when freshly baked but if stored in an air-tight container, or wrapped in cling film, this quickly softens. Soda bread is perhaps not a go-to for sandwiches but it is perfect for toast, or to accompany a bowl of soup. Or, of course, simply sliced thick and slathered in butter!
Now, in terms of my soda bread question for my Irish friends…
When first researching soda bread recipes and tips, I kept coming across one variant that was either a must-have ingredient, or one that had no place.
Or sultanas. Or any dried fruit additions for that matter. I consulted in my go-to Ireland experts.
One – who is a bit of soda bread connoisseur, and who despite living in Scotland for well over a decade still has a loaf of Soda Bread sent over to her every month – was quick to say a prompt no to raisins.
The other – who is quite literally the most Irish person I have ever had the pleasure of knowing – offered us some stellar advice…
“If in doubt, raisins out.“
So there you have it. Straight from two Irish optometrists. One from Northern Ireland, one from Ireland (if that makes any difference…?).
Both in agreement that Irish Soda Bread doesn’t have raisins in it. No judgement from me, a Scottish lass, should you wish to add a handful to yours though. Potentially judgement from them though. In fact, definitely judgement from one. That’s just who he is.
Plain FlourAlthough plain flour can be used in a pinch for our Easy Bread, generally a bread recipe would call for a bread flour, or a “strong” flour. For soda bread however, using a flour with a higher concentrate of protein (ie. gluten) – such as a bread/strong flour – is a waste. A simple plain flour is all that is required! You can also use a wholemeal flour, or even a combination of wholemeal and white flour, should you so desire.
Bicarbonate of SodaBeing a yeast-free bread, soda bread relies on the reaction between the bicarbonate of soda and the acid in the buttermilk to create bubbles whilst baking, resulting in a lift and rise in the bread dough. It’s a fun bit of science, all within a humble loaf of bread!The bicarbonate of soda is also where it of course gets it’s name from.
SaltFor flavour of course. I recommend using sea salt but you can experiment with different kinds of salt to get your perfect flavour. Hawkhead Whisky Smoked Salt in particular is to die for in Soda Bread – trust me!
ButtermilkIf we’re going for a traditional soda bread, it has to be buttermilk. Buttermilk already has it’s own acidity to it, so reacts perfectly with the bicarbonate of soda – no additional ingredients required.If however you can’t get hold of buttermilk, or you want the option to make it without, you can substitute with a standard milk (preferably whole-fat or soya, although others can be used too), and a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice, to create the missing acidity. I would always recommend using slightly less milk in this instance, as buttermilk tends to be naturally thicker. See the recipe notes for more info.
• Much like scones, Soda Bread needs a light touch. You don’t want to overwork your dough, or you risk knocking the air out of it before it’s had a chance to bake. The less you can handle it, the better – you want the dough to be just combined and no more.
• Some people assume that the cross cut into the top of your loaf has religious connotations but that’s not the case – it’s simply to aid in the rising and baking of your bread. Without it, it would be too heavy to rise sufficiently and burnt on the outside, whilst still being doughy in the middle. Using a sharp knife will give you the most uniform cross cut.
• If possible, allow your bread to cool for 30 minutes before slicing. It can be tempting to tuck in straight away, but cutting too soon can risk the loaf collapsing and seeming doughy & under-baked.
Nut-free: There is no nuts in this recipe for Soda Bread but be sure to double check your individual ingredients for any hidden nuts.
Egg-free: There is no eggs used in this recipe but be sure to check your individual ingredients for any hidden egg.
Dairy-free: To make this Soda Bread dairy-free, use 250ml of your dairy-free milk of choice (in place of the buttermilk in the recipe), mixed with 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Prepare your milk mixture about 30 minutes before, which will allow your milk to thicken ever-so slightly.
Vegan: To make this a Vegan Soda Bread, use the dairy-free tip above.
Great Irish bread just what mum baked every Monday for her ten children.I now do the same for my family.
Wowee! Ten children! A braver woman than me ;)
Mmmmmm so yummy thank you I baked your soda bread after being unable to find irish soda bread in the supermarket and am totally delighted with the results! No more shop bought for me, have a wonderful Christmas xx
That is not proper soda bread. Soda bread is flat not made like your picture in all my life it has not looked like that if you want to make it get a proper traditional recipe
Thanks for sharing, Elizabeth.
Perhaps you are thinking of Soda Farls Elizabeth which are more commonly available in Northern Ireland. I make my own soda Farls and soda bread (mostly wheaten) as I live abroad and they are not available in shops here.
Looks just like my mums. She’s from Ballybofey Co’ Donegal. She came to Glasgow and amongst other things – had me. My mum made this all my days, sometimes plain sometimes with raisins – She’s just turned 90 and no longer capable of home baking. So today – after a lengthy stay in hosital I have her back home and I am going to use Amy’s recipe to help perk her up.
The bread Amy made was proper soda bread . You must have been referring to soda farls. Both are available in Northern Ireland. Maybe you are not aware of the difference.
Hi Elizabeth It looks like the soda bread I was brought up with. Are you perhaps talking about soda farls, which are flat?
Hi Elizabeth I was taught to make soda bread by my aunt. She had been making it since she was a young girl. She has been dead for 30+ years. The bread was made on a weekly basis. She did not own scales – it was all done by eye and experience. Hers was exactly like the picture. When cooled it was cut in 4 using the slit as a guide So I have to disagree with you!!!
I agree with you Elizabeth I come from an Irish family and it is authentic Irish soda Bread. I make it every week for my family.
Never made this before such an easy reciepe it turned out really well and also your reciepe for tattie scones is amazing i live in corby and finding it hard to get them so this is brilliant
Regarding the cross cut in the top – it’s to let the fairies out! (Otherwise they’ll spoil your soda bread!)
Thanks for your recipe. 1st time making Irish soda bread and happy to say turned out delicious. Will be adding this to my list of your recipes Just enjoyed a wee slice with some lovely butter
Another winner. You have taught me to bake. I now bake at least 4 times a week and actively seek out recipes.. Thank you!
Just letting you know I enjoy all your recipies, well done proper home baking .My Mam is from North Wales and your Barra Brith gets 10/10. Regarding your Soda bread recipe it is spot on-I don’t agree with that rather angry lady-a Soda bread is not flat but a Soda FARL (more commonly eaten in Northern Ireland ) is …. (I am Irish by the way) Keep up the good work Amy!
Just trying this recipe with oat milk and lemon juice. Mix got sloppy even at 250ml. It’s in the oven….. and ….out of the oven it smells and looks the part. Slight rise in the middle and golden brown. I can’t wait thirty minutes to try it as I’m hungry. It tastes good, of course it will taste very different with buttermilk, and yes, you really do want to wait as long as possible before cutting it. In my defence, I was rather hungry after walking the dogs and cutting wood.
I use a recipe passed on to me from a friend from Northern Ireland and I’ll probably stick to that one. Two comments, though: first, the cross on top is to let the fairies out, else they’ll be mad at you and spoil the bread or go on to do further mischief in your kitchen. Secondly, I used to live in Canada and buttermilk there is something you drink. Sainsbury’s and Tesco b-milk is thick and comes in little 300 ml pots. I buy the Polish Maslanka (buttermilk) which comes in a litre carton and is very pourable and drinkable. Both S & T used to have that but not now, and I buy the UK version only if I’m pushed. It all works the same way.
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