Each St. Patrick’s Day, our family looks forward to enjoying corned beef and cabbage for dinner, and, of course, we love our Irish Soda Bread with the meal. However, did you ever think about how soda bread became an Irish staple? Did you know that there are many different recipes available online? Well, I am going to share a brief history of soda bread, as well as an easy recipe that I make each year. I have no idea why I only make it once a year, though.
Brief History of Irish Soda Bread
Irish soda bread was not actually created by the Irish, It was made by Native Americans using soda ash (more commonly known as potash) as a leavening agent to make quick bread as they did not have an oven to bake the bread. Soda ash from the ashes of wood is the forerunner of baking soda used today. Irish settlers in the early 1800s discovered this bread and brought the recipe home to Ireland.
The Irish found soda bread to be a necessity due to their financial strife during the 1800s. Soda bread does not require many ingredients, and the ingredients were relatively cheap and easy to come by. Making Irish soda bread consisted of “soft” wheat flour, baking soda, salt, and soured milk.
For Irish families that lived in isolated areas with limited access to cooking equipment, soda bread was an ideal recipe. Many lower-class citizens and farmhouse kitchens did not have ovens, so the bread was cooked in iron pots or on griddles over an open hearth, which gave the bread its signature dense texture, hard crust, and slightly sour flavor. Soda bread’s unique texture is the result of the reaction between the acidic sour milk and baking soda, which formed small bubbles of carbon dioxide in the dough.
Traditionally marked with a cross on the top, soda bread loaves got their signature appearance for superstitious reasons. Families believed if they cut a cross on the top of the bread that it would ward off evil and protect the household.
Similar to scones, which also have a hard crust and dense texture, Irish soda bread was often eaten by Irish shepherds, travelers, and soldiers as it traveled and kept well while they were away from home.
Today, there is the Society For the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread, an organization dedicated to protecting this national culinary treasure. They encourage people to get to know their Irish roots and learn to make traditional Irish soda bread. While the basic ingredients have remained the same, many Irish families add their own extras like raisins, caraway seeds, and honey.
How to Make Easy Irish Soda Bread Recipe
- 4 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup of sugar
- 1 tablespoon of baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1/3 cup butter
- 2 cup seedless raisins (optional)
- 1 tablespoon caraway seed
- 1 1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk (you can add a touch of white vinegar or lemon juice to the milk)
- 1 large egg, beaten
- Blend the dry ingredients – flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl.
- Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
- Add buttermilk and egg (and raisins and caraway seeds if you would like)
- Stir until blended.
- Knead on flour board until smooth (about 1 minute).
- Shape dough into 2 balls and place in 2 greased 8 in. round pans. If you have a cast-iron skillet, you can use it in place of the baking pans.
- Flatten to fill pans or skillet.
- Cut a deep cross on top of each loaf.
- Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes or until golden brown.
I am sharing a printable pdf version of the recipe for my subscribers to print out and use while baking.
Simply click here to get the recipe.
I hope you enjoy making this easy Irish Soda Bread with your children. Thanks for pinning my Irish Soda Bread recipe for others to enjoy.