Besides traditional Irish lamb stew, colcannon mashed potatoes and chocolate cake, the Emerald Isle’s most famous food is Irish soda bread, which is baked in large quantities during the weeks and the days before Saint Patrick’s Day.
Irish soda bread is a quick bread that requires no yeast – all of its leavening comes from baking soda and buttermilk. Soda bread is traditionally baked for St. Patrick’s Day. It doesn’t require rising or rising – the acid in the buttermilk reacts with the base in the baking soda to make the bread rise. You can cook it as soon as the dough comes together.
A loaf of good Irish soda bread is not heavy on the inside; it’s quite soft and chewy. Once out of the oven, the crust is nice and crispy, but it gets a bit chewy after a few days.
The origin of Irish soda bread
Although Irish soda bread is widely enjoyed during St. Patrick’s Day festivities, the bread’s history does not date back as far as St. Patrick’s Day itself – around 400 AD – but rather only a few centuries. Irish soda bread was created during the financial crisis of the late 1830s. A shortage of ingredients led to the creation of this bread. The recipe is indeed based on the simplest and cheapest ingredients: soft wheat flour, baking soda, salt and curd. Soft wheat flour is ideal for soda bread instead of hard wheat flour – most commonly found in yeast bread. Additionally, as Ireland’s unique climate only allows soft wheat to grow, soda bread has become a perfect addition for home cooks in the country.
This simple, hearty dish was ideal for families who lived in remote areas with little access to cooking equipment. Many lower-class and farmhouse kitchens did not have access to an oven at the time, so bread was baked in iron pans or on hot plates over open hearths. This baking method gave the unique dense texture, hard crust and sour taste of soda bread.
Soda bread loaves have traditionally been marked with a cross on top for superstitious reasons. Families believed that if they cut a cross into the top of their bread, the cross would ward off evil and protect their homes.
irish soda bread recipe
A cake-like Irish soda bread is the perfect way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but we guarantee you’ll be craving it all year round. Try this fresh, classic and easy to make soda bread that evokes the taste of Ireland.
Total duration: 1h10
4 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cup raisins
1 ½ cups buttermilk, at room temperature
3 eggs, at room temperature
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9 inch cake pan.
Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl. Blend the butter and flour mixture with a pastry blender until well blended, then stir in the raisins. Combine buttermilk and eggs in separate bowl; lightly beat buttermilk mixture into flour mixture. Transfer the batter to a lined cake pan.
Bake bread in preheated oven until risen and golden, 45 min to 1 hour. When a knife is inserted into the bread, it should come out clean. After about ten minutes of cooling on a rack, remove the bread from the mold. Enjoy hot.
How long does Irish soda bread last?
As with most homemade breads, Irish soda bread dries out quickly and is best eaten soon after baking. When tightly wrapped in plastic or aluminum foil, it can be stored at room temperature for 3-4 days.
You can make it ahead and freeze it (let it cool to room temperature first). First, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil. It will last about two months in the freezer.