Soda bread: a delicate combination of flour, baking soda, buttermilk, and salt, aided by simple acids and bases chemistry to yield a crusty yet soft bread. Not to get all scientific, but the acid from the buttermilk and the baking soda combine to form carbon dioxide, which leavens the bread.
Different regions of Ireland shape their soda bread differently. The “cake” shape I made is from Southern Ireland. Although its true origins may be unclear and highly controversial, soda bread is most often referred to as an Irish staple and is perfect for this St. Patrick’s Day.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 60 minutes
Servings: 1 loaf
3½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1½-2 cups buttermilk
1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. In a bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking soda. Stir thoroughly to ensure baking soda is distributed evenly.
3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in 1½ cups buttermilk. Mix in buttermilk until a sticky dough is formed. If the contents of the bowl is too dry and flaky, add remaining buttermilk one tablespoon at a time.
4. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead gently into a ball. Do not over knead as you will knock all the air out of the dough.
5. Set dough into the bottom of a dutch oven. Use a knife to cut a cross into the top of the dough and cover with lid. The cross cut into soda bread is said to “let the devil out” and also serves as a Christian symbol. However, many bakers believe it was just to make the bread easier to break into pieces.
6. Bake covered for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 15 minutes until gold brown on top.
7. Serve warm with butter and jam, or on the side of some stew for St. Patrick’s Day.
- Don’t have buttermilk at home and too lazy to buy some? Substitute by adding one tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to a measuring cup and filling to the 1 cup line with milk. Let stand for 10 minutes so that the milk begins to curdle
- Give your soda bread a fancy touch by adding some 1/2 cup raisins or one tablespoon caraway seeds.
- If you don’t have a dutch oven, you can use two cake pans, or just a baking sheet.
More ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day: