Irish Soda Bread

dsc06075Yesterday afternoon in the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day I made Irish Soda Bread.  Consulting my favorite online recipe source, Epicurious.com, I discovered a fascinating article called “The Great Irish Soda Bread Debate”, which discusses true Irish Soda bread and its many variations. According to its author, Irish chef Rory O’Connell, authentic Irish Soda Bread has very few ingredients: just flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. Recipes with eggs, butter or fruit are not the norm, but may be found on special occasions.

dsc06084I decided to go the authentic route and made the “White Soda Bread” recipe on Epicurious. The  bread is super-easy to make since it has  few ingredients, does not rise and only cooks for 35 minutes. I left out the caraway seeds because I did not have any on hand and substituted half whole-wheat flour for white flour. If you are substituting whole-wheat flour, you may need to add more buttermilk to attain the right consistency. I also took Rory O’Connell’s advice of not overworking the dough (it was a bit crumbly but still held together) and was really happy with the tenderness of bread. The house smelled delicious as the bread cooked and I could not wait until our corned beef and cabbage dinner to try some. Sure enough, it was delicious smeared with butter. I am excited to make this bread again and try some of the other variations on the Epicurious site.

Ingredients
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I used 1 3/4 white flour, 1 3/4 whole-wheat flour)
2 tablespoons caraway seeds (optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups – 2 cups buttermilk

Method
Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly flour baking sheet. Mix flour, caraway seeds, if using, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Mix in enough buttermilk to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball. Turn out onto lightly flour surfaced and knead just until dough holds together, about 1 minute. Shape dough into 6-inch-diameter by 2-inch-high round. Place on prepared baking sheet. Cut 1-inch-deep X across top of bread, extending almost to edges. Bake until bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, about 35 minutes. Transfer bread to rack and cool completely.

Note: Read the Reviews of the recipe on the Epicurious website! They often provide helpful clues as to where a recipe needs special attention or what variations were successful (or not). I was rather amused to learn on the Corned Beef and Cabbage reviews that St. Patrick should be shortened to “St. Paddy” rather than “St. Patty” because Paddy refers to a male while Patty refers to a female. Oh the things you can learn on the internet!

7 Thoughts on “Irish Soda Bread

  1. Brenda on March 19, 2009 at 5:35 PM said:

    I found this bread hard to resist. The texture surprised me—I would have believed it was a dense yeast bread.Your substitution of whole wheat flour added a sweet, nutty dimension. Mmmm…I’m ready for another slice.

  2. Yours is beautiful! Mine turned out like a brick. I know I overworked the dough a bit and didn’t flatten it out enough. I realize my mistakes and will probably try again in the future. Mine tasted good, it was just underdone. I discovered that slicing it really thin and toasting it more or less finishes the cooking and tastes pretty good.

  3. andrealein on March 23, 2009 at 2:39 PM said:

    Thanks, Carmel! I’d definitely say give the bread another try. Once you get the hang of it you’ll love how simple it can be. I also found that the bread was even more delicious when toasted–there is nothing like fresh, warm bread. Good job and happy baking!

  4. This bread is delicious! I can attest!

  5. Hallo there from this Irish “ex-pat” in Munich, Germany. It’s great to see this soda bread recipe on the Web as most people seem to think that traditional soda bread includes eggs, raisins, spices – all stuff that we never used. The bread made with all of those ingredients is similar to the recipe known as “Barmbrack” which was a “special occasion” recipe, usually made at Hallowe’en. Growing up in Ireland we thrived on soda & wheaten farls and tatie (potato) bread, toasted with butter or fried with our Sunday morning Ulster Fry. When she had time, my mum would whip up a batch of soda bread using only flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. It’s easy and quick and when eaten warm, spread with butter, just takes me back to the days when we kids couldn’t wait for the loaf to come out of the oven. Your photos made my mouth water!
    Happy baking
    Val

  6. andrealein on August 20, 2009 at 12:41 PM said:

    Hi Val,

    What wonderful childhood memories you have of eating soda bread! Thank you for sharing them with us. You’ve also confirmed that authentic soda bread is very simple and does not have a lot of ingredients! I had actually forgotten about this bread since I wrote this post in March, but I think I’m going to make some Irish Soda Bread this weekend…

    • Hallo Andrea!
      We had a very rainy Saturday here in Munich and I made myself some soda bread (with whole wheat flour, what we would call wheaten bread). A real comfort food with a big mug of tea! I have some Irish recipes (tatie bread, barmbrack, Sunday soup, champ…)on my website’s vegetarian page – just go to archive.
      Nice to meet you and I’ve added your blog to my favourites.
      Have a great week, Val

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