Irish soda bread is a staple in Irish homes. This simple yet delicious bread is easy to make and full of flavor. All you really need is a few basic ingredients: salt, flour, baking soda and buttermilk. The “trick” to achieving a perfect texture is not to over knead it, as this will make it tough, ugh not good!
Irish soda bread became popular around the 1800’s when baking soda first became available. The brown soda bread which is made with whole wheat flour was more common while bread made with white flour was for the wealthier class. A more refined flour such as white flour would have been more expensive. Irish soda bread is especially good when warm and slathered with butter!!! Everything is better with butter! Now, there are some versions of Irish Soda bread that contain dried fruits and/or caraway seeds. Experts such as Rory O’Connell from the Ballymaloe Cookery School, insist that this is not authentic. The reason? Dried fruits would have been a luxury items and by no means accessible to the general population.
In the beginning, Irish soda bread was made in a vessel called a “bastible”, similar to a Dutch oven; and hung over an open fire. Coals were also set on the top so the bread would cook more evenly on the top and the bottom. Before baking, a cross is made with a sharp knife on the top of the loaf. Why? Well, the reason is mainly scientific. The cruciform pattern allows the heat to penetrate the bread more thoroughly thus assisting the cooking process. On a more superstitious note, there is a saying in Ireland, that the cross on the bread is “to let the devil out”. However, in a predominantly Catholic country, the cross takes on added religious symbolism.
Needless to say, Irish bread is great when eaten with Irish Guinness Stew.
- 3⅓ cups flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1¼ cup buttermilk
- vegetable oil for brushing
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking soda.
- Slowly add the buttermilk mixing thoroughly until well combined.
- Place the dough on a floured surface and knead lightly.
- Place on a floured cookie sheet.
- With a sharp knife, cut a cross on the top of the bread.
- Brush with olive oil.
- Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown.