Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread

This bread, which is true to Irish tradition, relies on baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) for its rise, not yeast. There are three keys to a successful loaf: 1) Sift the dry ingredients twice to ensure they’re evenly distributed; 2) Work quickly and gently as the carbon dioxide bubbles formed when the buttermilk hits the dry ingredients will deflate if the dough is handled roughly or is left to sit too long before baking; 3) Cut the traditional cross in the bread fairly deep, about one-third of the thickness of the loaf, to encourage the bread to “flower” properly.

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Ingredients

  • Cornmeal for the pan
  • 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken, or more as needed
  • Salted butter, such as the Irish brand Kerrygold, slightly softened for serving

Preparation

Start the Traeger grill on Smoke with the lid open until the fire is established (4 to 5 minutes). Set the temperature to 400 degrees F and preheat, lid closed, for 10 to 15 minutes. Lightly dust the bottom of an 8-inch round cake pan with cornmeal and set aside. Tear off a large sheet of wax paper and lay it on your work surface. Combine the flour, sugar, soda, and salt in a large sifter and sift onto the wax paper. Carefully lift up the sides of the wax paper and tip the flour mixture back into the sifter. Re-sift into a large mixing bowl. Lightly flour your work surface. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture in the bowl and pour in 1 cup of buttermilk. Stir with a wooden spoon. The dough will look somewhat shaggy. If the dough seems dry-ish, add a little more buttermilk. Turn out onto the floured surface, and with floured hands, knead for 10 to 20 seconds – just long enough to bring the dough bits together. (It will look more like biscuit dough than bread dough.) Form into a flattish round and transfer to the prepared pan. Flour a sharp knife, and cut a cross in the top of the loaf all the way to the edge of the bread. Bake the bread for 45 to 50 minutes, or until it is browned and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when rapped with your knuckles. Remove the bread from the baking pan and cool on a cooling rack. Just before serving, cut the loaf in half and then slice each half into thin slices. Serve with butter. Wrap leftovers tightly in plastic wrap or foil. (This bread makes great toast.)