Category Archives: Soda Bread

Making Soda Bread

Don’t think you have time to make fresh bread for St. Patrick’s Day today? Trust me, you do. Just check out how fast and easy a traditional soda bread is to make. Preheat your oven to 425 half an hour before you begin. When the oven is hot, combine all your dry ingredients in a large bowl (make sure your soda is fresh). Check out how coarse this flour is: look around the edges of the bowl, see those little granules? Those are pieces of barely ground wheat berries. This is serious hippie flour — and perfect for a bread like this.

Whisk everything together.

Then add the buttermilk.

Use a spatula to moisten everything…

…then dive in with your hands.

Work the dough a bit until it comes together into a slightly stick ball (add more buttermilk if need be). There’s nothing to be gained from kneading this bread since it’s being chemically raised like a biscuit. Lots of developed gluten will only make it tough(er).

Transfer the mass to a floured board and pat it down into a disk about 1 1/2″ high.

Score it in a cross shape (this will make it easier to portion out after it’s baked).

Transfer the loaf to a cast iron skillet, or directly to a baking stone…

…and bake for 25 minutes. Turn the heat down to 350 and bake another 15 minutes until the loaf looks like this:

Pretty yes? This is “cake” soda bread. To make “farl”-style soda bread, divid the dough in two, and pat the pieces down to a thickness of about 3/4″. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and griddle the disks like English muffins until they’re browned on both sides. Split then, butter them and eat them.

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Soda Bread Recipe

There are lots of soda bread recipes around, but me, I prefer this one from the queen of Irish cooking, Monica Sheridan. Her 1965 book, The Art of Irish Cooking is a classic, right up there with Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. Her recipe is about as traditional as you can get, and great for using up that bag of coarse-ground flour your hippie ex-roommate brought to you after his trip to Vermont.

20 ounces (4 cups) stone ground whole wheat flour (an Irish-style flour is ideal)
10 ounces (2 cups) white flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
16 ounces (2 cups) buttermilk

Half an hour before you begin, preheat your oven to 425.

In a large bowl or in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle (beater) stir the flours, salt, and baking soda together. Add the buttermilk and continue to stir until everything is moistened, then switch to the dough hook and knead about a minute until you have a soft and slightly sticky ball. Add flour or more buttermilk as necessary to get the right consistency.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and flatten it out into a circle that’s about 1 1/2 inches thick. Transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet or a cast iron pan. With a sharp knife, make a cross-shaped slit in the top.

Bake the bread for 25 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 and bake for 15 minutes more. Cool on a rack a minimum of an hour, ideally up to six hours, before you cut into it.

Filed under:  Pastry, Soda Bread | 5 Comments