Bread, and baking in general, has a reputation for being pretty tricky. However, this quick and delicious Irish soda bread can be knocked up in under an hour.
What is Irish Soda Bread?
Irish Soda Bread is a quick bread made without the help of traditional bread-making ingredients such as yeast. Instead, it uses other leavening agents, usually baking soda or bicarbonate of soda. Soda bread also requires acidic ingredients such as buttermilk to react with the baking soda, resulting in rising bread with a crusty exterior.
Soda bread, in general, is a popular bread made in various cuisines worldwide, from the British Isles to Eastern Europe and beyond. Its popularity stems from its ease since it requires no skill, prolonged proving time, or any temperature regulation with other bread-making techniques.
Baking Soda vs Bicarbonate of Soda
Baking Soda is the commercial name for a compound known as sodium carbonate. It’s a fine white powder that gives quick baked goods a fast rise. When combined with acidic ingredients such as buttermilk in this Irish soda bread recipe, it helps produce little pockets or bubbles of carbon dioxide, resulting in the rising effect of soda bread.
Bicarbonate of soda is just another name for baking soda. Baking soda needs an acid to react with to produce carbon dioxide. Therefore, it’s often listed in ingredients with cream of tartar. However, the buttermilk in this recipe allows the bicarbonate of soda to work without adding cream of tartar. Cream of tartar and sodium bicarbonate combine to make another well-known baking ingredient called baking powder.
Tips for Irish Soda Bread
Sift the flour: Sifting flour knocks lumps out of the flour, resulting in a smoother mix without any clumps of flour. In turn, this results in an airier bread.
Mixing butter into the flour: This technique coats the flour with butter, preventing the flour from absorbing water. This results in less gluten formation, making the bread’s exterior softer as it has a less crispy, more tender crumb.
Salt and Sugar: The amounts used here don’t add much in terms of flavour except helping to reduce the taste of bitterness and balancing out the acidity of the bread.
Crisscrossing the dough: In Irish folklore and tradition, the cross is said to let out the fairies. In reality, it allows heat to reach the centre of the bread for a more even cooking.
Tapping the Bottom: When the bread has finished cooking, tap the base; it should sound hollow when cooked. This is because the carbon dioxide has created numerous little air pockets that allow the tap to echo throughout the bread.
Serve as soon as possible, as fresh Irish soda bread is best. The following day may result in a crusty exterior, making the texture of the bread feel dense.
Irish Soda Bread
- 200 g Plain Flour
- 200 g Wholemeal Flour
- 2 Tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
- 2 Tsp Salt
- 1 Tsp Caster Sugar
- 50 g Butter Softened
- 300 ml Buttermilk
- Preheat the oven to 190C or 170C Fan or 375F or Gas 5
- Sift the two flours, then mix all the dry ingredients together
- Rub the butter and flour together until combined.
- Mix in the buttermilk until a soft dough forms.
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Shape into a dough and cross the top.
- Bake at 190C for 40-45 minutes until golden, and the base sounds hollow when tapped.
- Allow to cool on a wiring rack and serve as soon as possible.