Soda Bread – Spotted Dog
Irish Soda Bread 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.
No yeast is required in this Soda bread – never has been in real Irish Soda Bread. 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 Soda Bread or Spotted Dog. More delicious Irish recipes to inspire you – check out Corned Beef and Cabbage, Guinness Beef Stew – Irish Beef Stew, and Corned Beef Bubble and Squeak.
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.
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.
Irish Soda Bread Recipe: