Bread is best when fresh, and making your own means you get to choose the very best of ingredients. Quick breads (that is, non-yeast breads) are best eaten the same day, though I have been content with this version the next day. I love this with soups and stews and oven-hot snacking. The basic recipe is traditional Irish Soda Bread, made with the basics of life, without fancy or (once) expensive ingredients; see below that for variations that are -not- traditional soda bread.
Easy Traditional Soda Bread
Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F. and lightly grease a baking sheet (or cover with baking parchment paper).
3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour (opt. up to half whole wheat)
1 t. baking soda (not baking powder)
1 t. salt
1 to 1 1/4 c. buttermilk
Measure the dry ingredients lightly, not packing down the measures; sift them together very well.
Quickly stir in the liquid, adding the first cup of liquid all at once. Stirring should be light and quick, trying to get most of the dry ingredients to cling together, adding only enough additional liquid as needed.
Knead the dough lightly, either on a clean counter dusted with flour or in the bowl, to ensure the dough holds together. The dough should be only a little sticky, and it will probably be a bit lumpy like a muffin.
Turn the dough out onto the greased baking sheet, shaping it into a flattish-round loaf about 2″ high. Give the top a goodly X in the top to allow the bread to rise, leaving about 1″ thick at the bottom that is uncut.
Pop that into the hot oven, give it no more than 5 minutes, and lower the temperature to 400 degrees F and bake about 30 minutes. Time will vary with the oven; if it seems to darken faster than it cooks, lower the temperature 25 degrees.
To check for doneness, turn the loaf over and thump the bottom: if it sounds hollow, it’s likely done. Cool it a bit, ideally on a wire cooling rack, but let it have a bit of air on the bottom. Break it open, slather with butter and maybe jam, and enjoy!
Options on the traditional:
Use up to half whole wheat.
Instead of buttermilk, use milk mixed with 1 t. of plain vinegar or lemon juice, or use yoghurt (the good stuff with only milk and bacteria, thinned with a little water).
Did you know that that the above amount of flour is approximately one pound (sixteen ounces)? Many traditional recipes have simple measures. Of course, this recipe is enough for 4 people; I have successfully halved all ingredients for a generous two-person loaf.
Are you interested in something not quite so traditional? How about…
To the above Soda Bread recipe, add
1 T. white sugar to the dry ingredients
1/2 to 1 c. raisins with the liquid
I usually have to lower the temperature a bit, and finish baking at 350 degrees because the sugar causes it to brown sooner and darker. With each change and addition to the basic recipe, you have a wonderful new recipe, but it’s not Irish Soda Bread. And do skip the green beer!