This is oh so easy to make! Just four ingredients and no kneading means that it is a bread you can make when you are short of time and want something delicious and rustic. Great with lashings of butter or jam or peanut butter or… anything you fancy really.
The history of soda bread stems from as late as the 19th century when baking soda became a product cheaply available to poorer folk in rural parts of Ireland. The baking soda acted as a raising agent when combined with the acidic buttermilk and so evolved the crusty, dense but soft bread we now know as Irish soda bread.
With no oven, only an open hearth with peat fires in most rural kitchens the round bread was cooked in three-legged black pots hanging above the fire… sound familiar? The round loaves would be scored on top with the shape of a cross as superstition would have it that this would ward off the Devil.
In other regions of Ireland, the round dough shape would be cut into sixths and cooked above the open fire on a floured griddle for about 20 to 30 minutes. It would be served hot off the griddle with butter. Enjoyed by children with a mug of milk or served to unexpected visitors because of how quick it is to prepare.
Although buttermilk will give that unique taste of authentic Irish soda bread you will still be able to get a near-perfect replica if you use kefir instead. Another good alternative is half and half sour cream to water or a 1:3 part water: yogurt (natural, unsweetened) mix. Some Irish recipes suggest adding an egg to give extra softness to the bread but I’ve left this out and chosen the simplest of recipes.
Irish soda bread is particularly lovely served in the traditional Irish way with stews and soups or hot with melted butter.
Here are a few more recipes you should check out when you are done with this one.
- 3½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ tsp. baking soda
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1½ - 1¾ cups buttermilk
- Line the Dutch oven with floured parchment paper.
- Mix all the dry ingredients together.
- Make a well in the middle and gradually add the buttermilk until a firm dough is formed.
- Press the dough together to form a round shape and flatten slightly.
- Cut a cross on top for a traditional finish.
- Place in the Dutch oven and cook for about 30 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped.