Irish Soda Bread relies on baking soda to rise, not yeast. It bakes up thick and rich with flavor and is wonderful sopped in egg yolks, meat drippings or sauce. Hailing from Northern Ireland, this bread is hearty enough to feed yer herd of blokes.
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When ready to cook, set the temperature to 400F (205 C) and preheat, lid closed, for 10 to 15 minutes.
Lightly dust the bottom of an 8-inch (20-cm) 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 (240 mL) of buttermilk. Stir with a wooden spoon. Work quickly and gently as the carbon dioxide bubbles formed when the buttermilk hits the dry ingredients will deflate, the dough will look somewhat shaggy. If the dough seems dryish, add a little more buttermilk.
Turn out onto the floured surface, and with floured hands, knead gently 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 deeply cut a cross in the top of the loaf all the way to the edge of the bread. Quickly get it in to bake, if it sits too long, it will deflate.
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 be-fore 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. Enjoy!
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