If you have been following our blog and reading our stories, then you may know that we Greek Canadian sisters are both married to Xeni (if you are Greek, you know exactly what this means…and if you are not Greek, well, Xeni is you). One of us is married to a man who is of Irish and Scottish descent, and so it seemed fitting to share a recipe from his original neck of the woods, especially with St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner.
Irish soda bread is classified as a quick bread because it does not include yeast, hence there is no proofing time where the dough rises, and then rises again. Here, baking soda and buttermilk combine to do all the work. The result is a bread which goes from flour in a bowl to warm bread in your mouth in about 45 minutes. The Irish know that sometimes, there are more important things to do than spend hours in the kitchen.
The baking soda and buttermilk combine in this recipe to create carbon dioxide, and this causes the dough to rise. For this reason, it is a good idea to use actual buttermilk, and not to rely on the substitution which is often perfectly fine in other recipes. When a cake calls for buttermilk for instance, and we are out, we will mix one tablespoon of either white vinegar or fresh lemon juice and enough milk to reach a total of 1 cup. After allowing this to sit for about 5 minutes, you have a buttermilk substitute. We’re not sure this will work super well here.
This recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of caraway seeds. If you don’t have them, don’t want to use them, or want to use less…go right ahead. We like the taste that the caraway gives, but you can definitely do without; your soda bread will still be delicious. An interesting bit of information: the use of seeds in soda bread has been referenced in very old Irish folklore but is not as popular nowadays. We’re not sure why! In any case, when soda bread does contain seeds, it is often called seedy cake.
After adding your buttermilk to the flour mixture, begin by stirring everything together with a wooden spoon…but then get ready to get your hands dirty. The final mixing and the kneading is done by hand.
We find that most recipes tell you to place your dough on a lightly floured surface in order to knead it. We rarely do this. We prefer to do our kneading in our mixing bowl. This works out well most of the time, and contains the mess.
As you are kneading your dough, if you find that you are left with excess flour that simply does not want to get incorporated into your dough, add a bit more buttermilk. Add any extra buttermilk 2 tablespoons at a time until your dough hold together nicely. Shape it into a ball; you may find that your ball of dough is a little “wet”. That is okay.
After forming your ball of dough, place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and score it with a sharp knife, as described in the recipe.
One of us (the same one married to the Irish lad) has a collection of old Bon Appétit and Gourmet (remember those!) magazines that she absolutely treasures. This Irish soda bread is actually an adaptation of a recipe found in the issue of Bon Appétit which is devoted to the Romance of Ireland, and it’s lovely foods.
*this recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit magazine Volume 41 Number 5 p. 138
Mia Kouppa: Irish soda bread
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons caraway seeds
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, and possibly a little more
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a large bowl mix together the flour, caraway seeds, baking soda and salt. Slowly pour in the buttermilk and mix well.
- Using your hands, knead the dough well (in the bowl) until it all comes together. You may need to add more buttermilk in order for all of the flour mixture to come together. If you do add more buttermilk, add about 2 tablespoons more at a time.
- Once you are able to form a ball with your dough, and there is not a significant amount of flour at the bottom of the bowl, transfer it to the center of a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Using a sharp knife, score the top of your dough, making a large “X” which is about 1 inch deep.
- Place in the middle rack of your oven and bake for approximately 30 – 35 minutes.
- Your bread is done when it is a nice golden brown, and when you tap the underside it sounds hollow.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool (or not) and enjoy!