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Traditional Irish Soda Bread Recipes

Irish soda bread RecipesAll recipes for traditional soda bread contain flour, baking soda, sour milk (buttermilk) and salt.  That's it!!!

This was a daily bread that didn't keep long and had to be baked every few days.  It was not a festive "cake" and did not contain whisky, candied fruit, caraway seeds, raisins (add raisins and it becomes "spotted dog" not to be confused with the pudding made with suet of the same name), or any other ingredient.

There are recipes for those types of cakes but they are not the traditional soda bread eaten by the Irish daily since the mid 19th century.

Here are a few basic recipe.  Note that measurements below are in American standards. (An Irish teaspoon is not the same as an American teaspoon measurement.)

Note for New Bakers: a fluid cup contains 8 ounces of liquid.  A dry ingredient cup contains around 4 ounces by weight.  Don't use a liquid measuring cup for dry ingredients.  Tsp means Teaspoon.

Of course our great grandmothers just grabbed a handful of this and a pinch of that to make their bread.  We modern bakers need help since we don't do it every day.


Irish soda bread brownThe best flour to use is "soft wheat" which is called "pastry flour" or "cake flour" today in the US.  If you want to try using Irish flour, may I suggest Odlums.

In 1845, about the time that soda bread baking was taking off in Ireland, William Odlum opened a four mill in Portlaoise and his descendants expanded the business over the years until 1988 when it was purchased by a corporation that continues production today.  They produce not only the white and wheat flours, but for the modern Irish family, a soda bread mix flour and brown bread mix flour that only needs water added to create a soda bread dough.

The latter mixes are similar to what I create using Saco Cultured buttermilk, flour, baking soda, and salt to create my own "add water" mix for camping trips.

If you want to try using Odlums flour, you can purchase it by clicking on this link.  Your purchase helps keep this web site up and running and you will be baking with real Irish flour.  for what we are attempting to create here, avoid the self-Raising flour and not that "cream flour" means just regular white flour.  No baking soda or baking powder added to it.

Check out the Dutch Oven Link for more cooking hints.


irish soda breadBrown Bread

3 cups (12 oz) of wheat flour
1 cup (4 oz) of white flour (do not use self-rising as it already contains baking powder and salt)
14 ounces of buttermilk (pour in a bit at a time until the dough is moist)
1 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda.

2 ounces of butter if you want to deviate a bit.

Method:

Preheat the oven to 425 F. degrees.  Lightly grease and flour a cake pan.  In a large bowl sieve and combine all the dry ingredients. Rub in the butter until the flour is crumbly.

Add the buttermilk to form a sticky dough.  Place on floured surface and lightly knead (too much allows the gas to escape)

Shape into a round flat shape in a round cake pan and cut a cross in the top of the dough.

Cover the pan with another pan and bake for 30 minutes (this simulates the bastible pot).  Remove cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

The bottom of the bread will have a hollow sound when tapped to show it is done.

Cover the bread in a tea towel and lightly sprinkle water on the cloth to keep the bread moist.

Let cool and you are ready to have a buttered slice with a nice cup of tea or coffee.


Irish soda breadWhite Soda Bread

4 cups (16 oz) of all purpose flour.
1 Teaspoon baking soda
1 Teaspoon salt
14 oz of buttermilk

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 425 F. degrees.  Lightly crease and flour a cake pan.

In a large bowl sieve and combine all the dry ingredients.

Add the buttermilk to form a sticky dough.  Place on floured surface and lightly knead (too much allows the gas to escape)

Shape into a round flat shape in a round cake pan and cut a cross in the top of the dough.

Cover the pan with another pan and bake for 30 minutes (this simulates the bastible pot).  Remove cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

The bottom of the bread will have a hollow sound when tapped so show it is done.

Cover the bread in a tea towel and lightly sprinkle water on the cloth to keep the bread moist.


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One of my favorite Irish cookbooks is by Monica Sheridan, the Julia Child of Irish Television, called "The Art of Irish Cooking" published in 1965.  It has been long out-of-print  but if you get a chance to grab a copy, do so.  She talks about traditional cooking without any of the "spicing up" that we see in modern interpretations of Irish baking although she does experiment a bit with recipes.  Here is her recipe for "Brown Bread"

4 cups Stone Ground Whole wheat flour
2 cups White flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking soda
1 1/2 tsp Salt
2 cups Buttermilk 

Preparation:

Mix the whole wheat flour thoroughly with the white flour, salt, and baking soda.
Make a well in the center and gradually mix in the liquid. Stir with a wooden spoon. You may need less, or more liquid - it depends on the absorbent quality of the flour.

The dough should be soft but manageable. Knead the dough into a ball in the mixing bowl with your floured hands. Put on a lightly floured baking sheet and with the palm of your hand flatten out in a circle 1 1/2 inches thick.

With a knife dipped in flour, make a cross through the center of the bread so that it will easily break into quarters when it is baked. Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes, reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake a further 15 minutes. If the crust seems too hard, wrap the baked bread in a damp tea cloth. Leave the loaf standing upright until it is cool. The bread should not be cut until it has set - about 6 hours after it comes out of the oven.  (personally, I can't wait 6 hours to eat fresh soda bread



OK!  If you gotten this far down and are still feeling uneasy about making soda bread, there is one last trick you can try:   Imported Irish Soda Bread already mixed and ready to bake.  Just add water.    Click on the flour bag that looks like an Owl.  That's Odlum's Brown Bread Mix.  Then Go to Baking Needs on the upper left.  It's as close to traditional as you can get without going to the extra trouble.  Enjoy!

Be Sure to visit the Soda Bread Blog