Easy No-Yeast Soda Bread
The concept behind Irish soda bread, in history, is that a busy cook would bake up a fat round loaf to “fill out the corners” of a hearty meal, to satisfy the hard-working family and keep them going for the rest of the day.
No other homemade bread is faster or easier to whip up than a loaf of traditional no-yeast Irish Soda Bread.
This quick artisanal-type bread recipe (courtesy of Great-Auntie Nell and her insistence on holding fast to our family’s Celtic roots) calls for just 4 ingredients. That means, even if you’re new to bread-making or in a mad rush to get a meal on the table, this simple recipe is easy to make – in fact, it’s practically fail-proof.
Great Auntie’s Irish Soda Bread Recipe
- 3 1/2 cups white or whole-wheat flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 – 1 1/4 cup buttermilk, sour milk, or milk
- Preheat oven to 400° F and dust a baking sheet with flour.
- Combine dry ingredients, and gradually mix in the liquid.
- Knead gently a few times, just until it all hangs together, and form into a 6″-8″ flattened circle.
- Place on floured baking sheet and cut a deep cross in the top, cutting at least half the way down through the loaf.
- Bake for approximately 45 minutes.
- Serve your soda bread fresh and warm, with loads of butter!
Tip: You’ll know that your Irish Soda Bread is done if tapping the bread on the bottom with the back of a spoon makes a hollow sound.
Not quite done? Give it a few more minutes, no big deal. The exact baking time will depend on how moist your bread dough was to start with, on your location (high altitude or a humid climate can affect baking times), and on the idiosyncrasies of your own individual oven – every oven is just a bit different.
My grandmother used to bake her bread in the oven of a woodstove, and you can imagine how hard that was to regulate the temperature on! So the lesson for us, today, who are lucky enough to be equipped with the convenience of modern appliances, is not to fuss too much.
Variations on the Soda Bread Theme
The more often you whip up a round loaf of Irish soda bread, the more confident a baker you’ll become. Experiment with different kinds of flour types, add-in extra ingredients such as seeds, toasted grains, dried fruit and raisins to boost the nutritional value, and even add a bit of sweetening if you like. Sometimes I add in a beaten egg, if I’m using a white flour, to give a little bit lighter loaf.
Not a Fluffy Modern Bread
This is quite a dense bread, in the traditional “olde world” style. As such, it’s best suited to dunking in broth, gravy, or soup – and it’s definitely best when eaten fresh. Day-old soda bread can be toasted lightly and slathered with fresh butter, or (my favorite way to have it) topped with cheese and slid under the broiler just until the cheese is bubbly. Either way, it’s a quick and easy bread to whip up when you’re in a hurry to get a meal together, and a great accompaniment to Green Potato Soup, baked beans, or a main-dish salad.
Photo credit: Title image based on Irish soda bread by Paul Joseph.