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What Is Soda Bread?
Soda bread is a type of quick bread traditionally made with flour, baking soda, salt, and sour milk or buttermilk. The “soda” in the name comes from the baking soda used to leaven the bread unlike yeast breads which are made with dry yeast or fermented bread starters. Soda bread is an everyday table bread enjoyed in Ireland and is made with whole-meal flour, resulting in a tender, dense bread with a golden brown crust. The American version of soda bread is a white, subtly sweet, almost cake-like bread made with all-purpose flour.
7-Ingredient Soda Bread
- Buttermilk: Buttermilk is added to soda bread dough because it reacts with baking soda to provide the bread's leavening. It also adds a depth of flavor to the bread.
- Eggs: Eggs also work as leavening agents to help the dough rise. The fats from the yolk help to tenderize the crumb and lighten the texture.
- All-Purpose Flour or Whole Wheat Flour: Traditional Irish soda bread consists of Irish wholemeal flour similar to whole-wheat flour, resulting in a brown, dense bread. The American version is white, sweetened, and made with all-purpose flour.
- Brown Sugar: White or brown sugar can be used to add sweetness to the bread and aids in caramelization of the crust. For a moist and chewy bread, use brown sugar instead of white.
- Baking Soda and Baking Powder: Both baking powder and baking soda are chemical leavening agents that cause batters to rise when baked. The leavener enlarges bubbles in the batter produced during the creaming of ingredients. When a recipe contains both baking powder and baking soda, baking powder does most of the work leavening the bread.
- Salt: Salt isn't added only as a seasoning in baking, it's added to enhance the browning, flavors, and the texture of your bread.
- Unsalted Butter: Using unsalted butter in baking helps you to control the amount of salt that goes into the recipe. If you're baking a recipe that calls for unsalted butter and you only have salted, you can eliminate the added salt in the recipe and still have successful results.
4 Tips for Making the Best Soda Bread
- Don’t overwork the dough: Soda bread dough doesn’t need to be kneaded or overworked. Work with it gently, it’s supposed to be slightly shaggy in texture.
- Use a cast-iron skillet: A cast-iron skillet works best to give the bread a crisp crust on the bottom, and prevent the bread from spreading too much, but a baking sheet also works.
- Score the Cross: Using a sharp knife, score the top of the dough with a cross before baking to help steam escape the bread from the center of the dough.
- Add raisins for a twist: Traditionally, the Irish do not add raisins to their bread, the inclusion of raisins (and sometimes caraway seeds, too) is an Irish-American variation. For the best results, add raisins or other dried fruit once the dough has already formed.
6 Ways to Serve Soda Bread
- As a table bread: Keep the bread slices warm in a bread basket and let guests help themselves. Make sure slices are cut at least a ¼-inch thick to keep the bread from crumbling apart.
- Spread with butter: Enjoy soda bread with room temperature European butter and flakey sea salt.
- Serve with marmalade. Soda bread has a heartiness that pairs wonderfully with tart orange marmalade.
- Serve a slice with a stew. The dense texture of soda bread goes well with beef or vegetables stews. A slice of bread is perfect for soaking up liquid as you eat.
- Make a sandwich. Soda bread has a neutral flavor that makes for a great sandwich bread. Try using it to make a classic Reuben sandwich—top it with swiss cheese, corned beef, thousand island dressing, and tangy sauerkraut.
- With corned beef and cabbage. Show some Irish pride and serve slices of soda bread alongside homemade corned beef, cabbage, and a glass of Guiness beer.
Homemade Irish Soda Bread Recipe
Prep Time15 min
Total Time45 min
Soda bread is best served freshly baked while it’s still warm. A warm temperature compliments the dense, cakey texture of the bread. Serve this yummy bread straight from the oven or sliced and toasted.
- 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed, plus more for greasing pan
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs, room temperature, divided
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
- Preheat oven to 375°F and grease a cast-iron skillet with butter. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the cold butter using a pastry cutter or a fork, until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- In another bowl, whisk together 1 of the eggs and the buttermilk. Slowly add to the flour mixture; stir until just combined. Gently add in raisins, if desired.
- Turn dough onto a floured surface; knead gently until all the flour is moistened, about 30 seconds. If dough is too sticky, add a little more flour. Shape into a 6 ½-inch round loaf and place on the greased cast-iron skillet. Using a sharp knife, score a shallow cross in the top of the loaf. Whisk the remaining egg and brush over the surface.
- Bake the bread until golden brown, 30–35 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes, then transfer bread to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Bread can be stored covered in plastic wrap at room temperature for 2 days, or in the refrigerator up to 1 week.
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