In preparing for St. Patrick’s day, I thought it would be fun to bake up a loaf of Traditional Irish Soda Bread. I have never before attempted to create said loaf, so when I pulled the loaf pictured above out of the oven my reaction was, “How the heck am I going to make this look pretty on the internet?!” After anxiously waiting for it to cool down, I finally tasted a bite. I can say with definity: it’s much better tasting that it looks. Promise :0)
Traditional Irish Soda Bread is made with the chemical leavener baking soda that reacts to acidic buttermilk and causes the loaf to rise. No yeast. Which is nice, if thoughts of baking a loaf of yeasted bread causes deep feelings of failure or even worse, convulsions…
This recipe for Irish Soda Bread is great practice if you want to gain more experience with baking bread. It’s super easy, and follows the very traditional practice of combining dry ingredients first, then adding your liquid. So we start by placing flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, cream of tartar and powdered buttermilk in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together until fully incorporated. I really like using powdered buttermilk vs. real buttermilk from the dairy department at the grocery store. It is super convenient to just keep the container of powder in my pantry and only use what I need. I don’t have to worry about expired milk in the fridge (which it’s really hard to tell with buttermilk anyway, it always smells sour). You should find a container like the one pictured below in the baking isle.
Next, just add the water and mix it in with a fork. The dough will quickly start to clump together. Once it looks something like the pic below, you’re ready to dump it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand just a few turns until it comes together in one mass. No heavy duty kneading here! Kneading until the dough is smooth (as with some other breads) will make this loaf very tough.
The dough should be a bit lumpy, that’s normal. Form the dough into a nice round about 6 inches across and about 2 inches deep. With a sharp kitchen knife (I use my chef’s knife) score a cross or ‘X’ into the top of the dough. Cut at least 1/2 inch deep. This give the bread a place to rise and expand while it bakes in the oven.
I would definitely say the first time you bake this bread check it often (with the oven light, don’t open the door a bunch of times). I set my loaf to bake for 45 mins and it got a bit too dark for my liking. But if all goes well you should end up with a nice crusty loaf of Traditional Irish Soda Bread. You can slather it with butter and honey, or have a slice with dinner or a nice hearty soup. It’s a versatile bread. There are american versions of this bread out there with additions of dried fruits and nuts. I wanted to go traditional and feature a simple and still delicious recipe.
Don’t forget to brush it with melted butter when it’s hot from the oven! The butter softens the crust and adds even more great flavor. How fun will it be to tell your dinner guests that you’re serving them a traditional Irish Soda Bread with dinner! How many thousands of Irish families gathered around the table with a similar loaf of bread to share?
All in all this was a fun recipe to create as I enjoy learning about foods from other parts of the world. The inspiration for this bread came from a recipe originally featured in ‘Baking Illustrated’. Give it a try and share your experience in the comments below :0)
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