Here’s a wonderful traditional Irish Soda bread recipe that can be found in homes and markets all over Ireland. In the United States, Irish Soda bread
is popular to accompany
Corned Beef and Cabbage when celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day.
More delicious Irish recipes, check out
Corned Beef and Cabbage,
Guinness Beef Stew - Irish Beef Stew, and
Corned Beef Bubble and Squeak.
Check out all of Linda's great
Bread Recipes for your bread making and more great
Cast-Iron Cooking Recipes.
History of Irish Soda Bread:
Irish soda bread has been a staple of the Irish diet for the past two centuries. Before the Irish learned about soda bread, it was actually the
American Indians who taught early American settlers to use soda ash as a leavener for baking bread. The Irish farmers learned about soda bread in the
1840’s when bicarbonate of soda was first introduced to Ireland. Irish soda bread rises from the reaction of the acid of sour milk mixing with the baking
soda. Using baking soda and buying sour milk cheap from local creameries provided homemakers with a quick and inexpensive way to make bread for their
families. Today, buttermilk has replaced the use of sour milk and it is more easily found in markets.
The bread dough for Irish soda bread is shaped into a round loaf,
then a cross is cut across the top with a knife. Legend has it that Irish
households made this cross in the bread as a superstition to keep the devil away
and protect their families. The cross cut across the top also helps the bread
expand while baking. Since many poor Irish farmers only had open hearths instead
of ovens for baking, they had to bake their bread on a griddle or in cast iron
dutch oven called a “bastible” over an open fire. This resulted in a bread with
a tender yet dense cake-like texture on the inside and a hard crust on the outside.
Irish Soda bread is more popular in Southern Ireland. In Northern
Ireland, they make a similar bread called Farl or griddle cakes. With Farl, the
dough is shaped into a flattened round loaf, then cut into 4 separate quarters.
Each quarter is cooked on the griddle. Many Irish-American families like to add
raisins and caraway seeds to their soda bread which adds a slightly sweet
flavor. This version of soda bread is known as “Spotted Dog”.
1817 - The editor of The Gentleman’s Magazine published in
London was challenged to come up with a better way of making bread with poor
wheat. He experimented until he found a way without using leaven. He used wheat
flour, mealy potatoes, salt, water, soda, and muriatic acid and then baked the loaf before a fire.
1824 - The Virginia Housewife, by Mary Randolph, published a recipe for soda cake:
"Dissolve half a pound of sugar in a pint of milk; add a teaspoon of soda,
pour it on two pounds of
flour –melt half a pound of butter. Knead all together until light. Pour it
in shallow molds and bake it quickly in a quick oven."
1840 - Bicarbonate of soda was first introduced to Ireland
providing a quick and inexpensive leavening agent for bread.
Abigail’s Bakery, LLC, History of Irish Soda Bread,
Kitchen Project, Food History, The History of Irish Soda Bread.
Ulster Fry Recipe, Channel 4 Television.
Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread,
Irish Soda Bread History.
Irish Soda Bread Recipe:
Yields: 1 loaf
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 45 min
3 cups all-purpose
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, softened
eggs, beaten (crack one of the eggs in a separate cup and beat)
1 cup buttermilk*
1/2 cup raisins
* Learn how to make a
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place rack in middle of oven.
Lightly grease a 9-inch cast iron skillet, a 9-inch cake pan, or a baking sheet.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and cut into the flour mixture
with a with a pastry blender or two knives crossing against each other (or you can use your fingers) to mix in the butter until the flour mixture is crumbly in
In a small bowl, combine 1 beaten egg, buttermilk, and raisins, set aside.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Pour the egg mixture into the well. Stir everything together until all the
dry ingredients are absorbed.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and gently knead the dough for about 10 to 12 turns until the texture is
more elastic and not sticky. You do not want to over handle the dough or it will become tough.
Shape the dough into a round loaf about 6 inches in diameter and place into either cast iron skillet, cake pan, or on a baking sheet. With a
sharp knife cut a cross or an "X" on the top surface of the bread loaf (about 1/4-inch deep). Brush the top of the bread with the remaining beaten egg
(this will add a nice shiny golden crust).
Place the bread on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. A good
check is to use an instant digital thermometer to test your bread. The temperature of the bread should be at 200 degrees F. when done.
is the type of cooking and meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking. I get many readers
asking what cooking/meat thermometer that I prefer and use in my cooking and baking. I, personally, use the
Thermapen Thermometer shown in the photo on the right. Originally designed for professional users, the
Super-Fast Thermapen Thermometer is used by chefs all over the world.
Remove from oven and cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Slice into wedges and enjoy spread with butter.
Excellent accompaniment to
Corned Beef and Cabbage or
Guinness Beef Stew - Irish Beef Stew.
Irish soda bread can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Makes 1 loaf (4 to 6 servings).