Monday, 6 February 2012

Irish Soda Bread

Recipe Number One Hundred & Fifty Four:  Page 293.

I've never made or even tasted soda bread before and it wasn't on my list of 'must bakes'. I wasn't sure I'd enjoy taste testing this recipe! I found it hard to believe that a bread which contains no yeast and does not require any kneading would be up to much. If it wasn't for this challenge I very much doubt I would ever have taken the time to give it a go!

Neil took a trip into town in the morning partly to get some shopping but mostly to escape the germs that both our son and I were brewing. It was too late for Isaac but I decided to put up a fight and spent the day frantically sucking on throat soothers and drinking gallons of orange juice! Neil was triumphant on his return. He proudly produced a box of yeast and announced it was for my bread. I had to break it to him that soda bread doesn't contain any yeast. This news confused Neil - he couldn't understand how it had the nerve to call itself a bread!

To my amazement, Isaac fell straight to sleep for his lunchtime nap; this gave me time to head to the kitchen and whip up the soda bread. I weighed out the strong bread flour and then retrieved the rarely used bicarbonate of soda from the shelf. I measured in a level teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda followed by the same amount of salt and stirred the three ingredients together. Now it was time to collect the buttermilk from the fridge. As I poured the buttermilk into the bowl I wondered if it might be too cold. I reassured myself that the temperature wouldn't matter as there were no yeast creatures to feed!!! Any positivity was short-lived as the next instruction was to add a little tepid water. I felt confused! Nevertheless, I mixed the cold buttermilk and warm water into the dry ingredients until it had formed a soft dough. As no kneading is required, I just had to shape the dough into a large round shape and place it onto a greased baking tray. I thought I might miss the kneading, but I have to admit that I didn't miss the aching biceps or the messy worktop! I grabbed my sharpest knife, scored a cross into the top of the dough and placed it in the hot oven.

It needed to cook for half an hour and I had to remember to turn the bread over and cook the base for a further ten or so minutes. The smell from the oven whilst it was cooking was not as delicious as a standard loaf but it was pleasant enough; it was just lacking that gorgeous bready smell! Once the bread was cooked I laid it onto a wire rack to cool. The top of the soda bread was a lovely golden brown but looked rather dry. I couldn't help thinking that it could have done with a glaze. Once it was cold, I found the bread tough to cut into. I began to wonder if I should search Neil's tool box for a saw! As I was inspecting the inside, not only did I notice how soft the texture was, but also that I'd cut into the bread as if it were a cake! I had meant to slice it into neat slices, not to cut a huge wodge! I spread some butter onto the triangular piece of bread whilst it was still warm; it looked very inviting. The taste was pleasant enough but I thought that the bicarbonate of soda was too much in evidence. However, I was really pleased with the texture as it was so soft, not heavy at all – I had been proved wrong! Whilst cutting another slice, I spied some unappetising brown spots in the bread. I had a taste and realised it must be uncombined baking soda – yuck! There were only a few of these vile spots on display but I was cross with myself as I clearly hadn't stirred it into the flour thoroughly enough. I think it would be a good idea to sift in the bicarbonate of soda next time, to be sure that it doesn't clump.

I can confirm that this bread is absolutely perfect with a bowl of soup, especially on a cold day. I've decided to make this bread every time we have soup. I very rarely get to feel like a domestic goddess but, if I can whip this up and have it on the table within an hour, then I think I'm getting close!
My 'wrinkly' soda bread!  
Forgot I was cutting bread not cake!! ;-)


  1. Wow this looks so good. There is nothing better than a loaf of freshly baked bread. Great blog. Congrats

  2. I made this today. Taste so yummy with a bit of butter and it's better than the shop one.

  3. Thank you Anita :-) I agree nothing beats fresh bread! So pleased you like my blog - thank you. xx

    So pleased you made and enjoyed the soda bread Julieta. xx