So here’s the problem. I’m out of bread, I’m in lockdown and not heading for the shops, and it’s an hour to lunchtime. The solution? The Irish have this right: make soda bread. You can do the whole thing in 40 minutes (of which half is waiting while it’s in the oven), it’s delicious and it requires no particularly high level of skill. In short, I am confident that this will be the easiest of this whole “80 bakes”, a winner that I keep coming back to.
You can choose any combination of flours you like: 100% white and 100% wholemeal are both fine, but my favourite is 50/50 white wheat and wholemeal spelt. The recipe specifies buttermilk, which definitely helps because of its slight acidity, but you can use milk as an alternative. I suspect that milk with a tablespoon of yoghurt would work well, although I haven’t actually tried.
If we’re all honest, this is closer to an oversized scone than a bread, which is perfectly fine, because scones are lovely. And like scones, once you’ve mastered this plain recipe, you can move on to all sorts of flavourings, sweet and savoury: raisins, honey, nuts, dates are great for sweet versions; bacon, cheese (and also nuts) for savoury.
This recipe is only slightly adapted from the one in Emmanuel Hadjiandreou’s excellent How to make bread.
- Sunflower or other oil for greasing
- 125g white flour (plain or strong, it doesn’t really matter)
- 125g wholemeal flour, plus a bit for the board (I use spelt, but wheat is fine)
- 6g salt
- 4g baking soda
- 260g buttermilk (or 260g milk, or 240g milk plus 20g yoghurt)
- Preheat oven to 200℃
- Brush a small pie dish with a little oil
- Stir together all the dry ingredients in a bowl until evenly mixed
- Pour in the buttermilk and mix until you have an even dough with no separately visible flour. Don’t overdo the mixing.
- Transfer the ball of dough to a board lightly dusted with flour; with your hands also lightly floured, form it into a firm, even ball.
- Transfer the ball of dough to your pie dish and make two gashes across the top to form a cross.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes until it sounds hollow when tapped.
- Transfer to a rack and cool for 10 minutes or so before eating
Soda bread is best eaten immediately after that initial cooling – but if that doesn’t work out, it’s still great for a day or so. It does NOT keep particularly well.
3 thoughts on “Around the world in 80 bakes, no.36: Soda bread from Ireland”
The finished product looks so delicious. Thanks for sharing.
I love soda bread and make it regularly. I can attest to using yoghurt with milk, rather than the ultra-traditional buttermilk. Actually, I blend the whey from straining natural yoghurt (to make thick ‘Greek-style’) 1:1 with milk and it produces an almost ideal acidity to get the best from the raising agent.
Soda bread is very adaptable. And while I wouldn’t agree that it is more scone than bread, if you add fat sugar and dried fruit, you end up with a very scone-like bake, sometimes called Spotted Soda Bread – a lovely tea bread (and just as quick). Rather than bake it, I most often make soda bread on a griddle stone (soda farls), which are really lovely, and even quicker than baking a loaf, and a ready variation is to make potato farls – a classic ingredient of the Ulster Fry breakfast.
There’s a soda bread article in my own blog that gives recipes for all four of these variants.