Irish Soda Bread
(Irish soda-leavened bread)
This is the traditional recipe for Irish soda bread, containing only flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. Soda bread became a popular hearth bread in Ireland in the mid-19th century when baking soda became available as a leavener. A baked loaf of bread is called "cake," while flattened wedges baked on the stovetop are called "farl."
Soda bread is best eaten warm from the oven. It stays fresh for only a day or two and should be tightly wrapped. Leftovers are good for toast.
Makes 1 loaf
- Cake flour -- 3 cups
- All-purpose flour -- 1 cup
- Baking soda -- 1 1/2 teaspoons
- Salt -- 1 teaspoon
- Buttermilk -- 1 1/2 cups
- Preheat oven to 450°F. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt.
- Stir the buttermilk into the flour with a wooden spoon to form a raggedy dough. Remove the dough to a floured work surface and knead gently just until the dough comes together. The dough will be sticky. Do not overknead or your bread will be tough.
- Form the dough into a domed loaf and place it on a lightly floured baking sheet. Cut an X in the top with a serrated knife. Set in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
- Reduce heat to 400°F and bake for another 30 minutes, or until the loaf is nicely browned and sounds hollow when tapped.
- Remove from the oven and serve slices warm with butter, jam or jelly.
Soda Bread Variations
- Brown, or Wheaten Bread (Northern Ireland): Use 3 cups of whole wheat flour and 1 cup of all-purpose flour.
- Farl (Northern Ireland): Preheat a large skillet or griddle over low flame. After lightly kneading the dough, press it out into a flattened round about 1 inch thick. Cut the round into four triangular wedges and place into the preheated skillet or griddle, leaving about 1/2 inch of space between the wedges. Bake for about 20 minutes per side, taking care not to let the bread burn. Farl is a traditional part of an Ulster Fry, or Irish breakfast, a high-cholesterol orgy of Irish bacon, fried eggs, black pudding and sausage.
- Damper (Australia): A soda bread traditionally baked over an open fire by Australian itinerant farm workers called swagmen. Use 3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, 3 teaspoons of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of salt, 3/4 cup milk and 3/4 cup water. Work 3 tablespoons of butter into the dry ingredients if you like. Serve with golden syrup, jam or honey.
- Spotted Dog, or Spotted Dick: Soak 1/2 cup raisins in hot water for 10 minutes and drain. Stir raisins and 2 teaspoons of sugar into the dry ingredients.
- Treacle bread: Stir together 2 tablespoons of treacle or molasses, 4 teaspoons of sugar and 1 1/4 cups buttermilk and substitute for the 1 1/2 cups of buttermilk in the recipe above.
- Seedy Bread: Add 1 tablespoon caraway seeds to the dry ingredients.
- If a softer crust is desired, wrap the bread in a kitchen towel after removing it from the oven.
- Irish wheat is lower in gluten, and using cake flour in the recipe above simulates Irish flour. You can use only all-purpose flour if you prefer.