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Irish Soda Bread Recipe & Video

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Irish Soda Bread has a beautiful golden brown crust that's nice and crisp, yet inside the bread is soft and tender. Have it with butter and jam for breakfast or it's excellent served alongside a hot bowl of soup or stew. This bread is often served on Saint Patrick's Day (March 17th), a day that honors its patron saint, Saint Patrick. It is a national holiday in Ireland. Outside of Ireland, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated by both the Irish and non-Irish. Parades, the wearing of green, and the eating of Irish food has become very popular as "Everyone wants to be Irish on St. Patrick's Day". 

Irish cookbook and food lore author, Maura Laverty, tells us in her lovely book Maura Laverty's Cookery Book that while outside of Ireland it is known as Irish 'soda bread', locals often refer to it as "cake" or "cake-bread". In fact, soda bread encompasses many types of quick breads; from a griddle bread, to brown bread, to a treacle bread, to a currant and caraway seed bread, to even a raisin soda bread (spotted dick or spotted dog). Yet in its simplest form, Irish soda bread is made with just four ingredients; flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk (or sour milk). Soda bread gets its rise, not from yeast, but from the baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) reacting with the acid (soured milk or buttermilk). There are debates about whether Irish soda bread should be made from white or whole wheat flour, so to satisfy both camps, this recipe uses both. I also like to add a little sugar for sweetness but this, along with a small handful of old fashioned rolled oats, is entirely optional. The important thing to remember when making soda bread is to have a quick light hand for both mixing and kneading of the dough. Once the dough is formed into a round, a cross is cut on the top of the bread, some say to "let the fairies out". If truth be told, the cross is really there to keep the bread from splitting during baking and it also makes it easier to cut the baked bread into quarters.

Irish Soda Bread contains buttermilk which has a nice thick creamy texture with a rich tangy buttery taste that makes this bread tender. Whereas in the past it was the liquid left over after churning butter it is now commercially made by adding a bacteria to whole, skim, or low fat milk. You can make a good substitute for commercial buttermilk by adding 1 1/2 tablespoons of white distilled vinegar, cider vinegar, or lemon juice to 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) of milk. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes before using.

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Irish Soda Bread: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) and place the rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, sugar, oats (if using), baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add most of the buttermilk. Using your hands, or a wooden spoon, mix (adding more buttermilk if necessary) until you have a soft, and slightly sticky, dough.

Transfer to a lightly floured surface and gently knead the dough into a 7 inch (18 cm) round. Place the round on your prepared baking sheet and then, with a sharp knife or clean kitchen scissors, cut a 1/4 inch (.6 cm) deep "X" across the top of the bread. Brush the surface of the bread with milk or cream (this helps with browning).

Bake for about 30 minutes or until nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean. You can also test that is fully baked by tapping the bottom of the bread - it should sound hollow. Remove from oven. This bread is wonderful when served warm with butter and jam. It also makes great toast.

Makes one seven inch (18 cm) round soda bread.

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Irish Soda Bread:

1 1/2 cups (195 grams) all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups (195 grams) whole wheat flour

2 tablespoons (30 grams) granulated white sugar (optional)

2 tablespoons (15 grams) old fashioned rolled oats (optional)

1 teaspoon (4 grams) baking soda

3/4 teaspoon (3 grams) salt

1 1/2 cups (360 ml) buttermilk (soured milk)

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