While I love baking projects that challenge me and can keep me occupied for hours, sometimes it is all about speed and ease. Irish Soda Bread takes less effort to make than mashed potatoes and is made from ingredients that I always have on hand. This recipe is as comfortable to me as my old pair of jeans. It is not fussy or pretentious and it goes with anything. I love to make soda bread to accompany soups, stews, and braises during cold weather and with salads and frittatas in the summer. Sometimes I make it for breakfast just so I can slather it with jelly.
Irish soda bread requires few ingredients and limited technique. The most traditional Irish soda breads contain no sugar or fat. Though I occasionally make mine out of all white flour, soda bread is often made with all or part whole wheat flour. Wheat flour can make the bread unpleasantly heavy so I recommend limiting the amount of whole wheat flour to 1 cup. On that same note, do not use bread flour because it will also yield a tough, heavy loaf. Bread flour contains more gluten than all-purpose. High ratios of gluten are highly desirable in yeasted breads and highly undesirable in quick breads.
You will notice as you read the instructions that there is no kneading in this bread. In fact, this bread should be mixed as little as possible. Over mixing will yield a tough loaf.
This recipe makes a relatively small rounded loaf of bread. It can be doubled but be warned, the shelf life of this bread is short. If you have any extra the next day I highly recommend spreading it with jelly, topping it with cheese and then broiling till gooey and toasty. It also makes great fried egg sandwiches.
Irish Soda Bread
- 2 cups flour
- ¾ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 ¼ cup buttermilk
Stir together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add 1 cup of the milk. Stir just enough to bring all the ingredients together. If there are dry spots add more milk 1 tbls at a time. The dough should form a shaggy, sticky mass. DO NOT OVERMIX.
Form into a rough ball and place on a greased baking sheet, cake pan, or skillet. With wet hands (this technique keeps the dough from sticking to your hands) pat the dough into an even shape. Using a sharp knife cut a cross in the top. This is optional but it will speed up the cooking by allowing the heat to more easily penetrate into the middle. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30-40 minutes until evenly browned. When tapped with your fingers, the dough will sound hollow.