Irish Soda Bread

Gone are the days when it was cooked over an open smokey turf (peat) fire. Irish soda bread is now baked in an oven and the recipe is fairly straightforward and easy to follow. Variations of recipes exist of course - many are passed down from one generation to the next.

The main ingredients are flour, baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), buttermilk and salt - there's no yeast. Now the science bit: once everything is mixed together the lactic acid in the buttermilk reacts with the baking soda. As a result, bubbles of gas (carbon dioxide) are produced, this causes the bread to rise.

The flour used can be plain white flour or whole wheat flour, or indeed a mixture of both. In many parts of Ireland (especially in Northern Ireland) if only whole wheat flour is used, it's referred to as wheaten bread.

Oh, and don't forget the cross! Just before you put the bread in the oven you have to cut a cross in the top. This is 'to let the devil out' and it's said to give the blessing of God.

Irish soda bread doesn't have any preservatives so it probably won't last more than a couple of days. Traditionally in an Irish home a loaf of soda bread was baked each morning over the open fire. You can just imagine it - the smell of the smokey peat fire and the fresh bread baking. So if you want to get in the mood for your trip to Ireland try this simple soda bread recipe.

Irish Soda Bread Recipe
500g whole wheat flour or a mixture of whole wheat flour and plain white flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
Approximately 450ml (3/4 pints) of buttermilk

· Place the flour, salt and baking soda into a bowel and mix together.
· Add the buttermilk. Work lightly with hands to make a soft dough.
· Knead the dough lightly; remember you can add in more flour if it's too sticky.
· Make into a circular shape and place on a floured tin. Flatten with palms of hands.
· Using a sharp knife mark a cross on the top of the dough
· Bake for around 40 minutes or so in a preheated oven at 200°C / 400°F / Gas 6.
· Cut into slices and serve while still warm.

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About The Author, Helen Kelly
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