Irish Soda Bread
Some 20 years ago I visited Ballymaloe House in County Cork, and then went down the road to Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery School and Organic Farm and Gardens in Shanagarry. There we had a tour of the school and gardens, and before I left I bought a copy of the Ballymaloe Bread Book, from which I’ve slightly adapted this recipe for Darina Allen’s Irish Soda Bread.
While American recipes for Soda Bread tend to add sugar, raisins, nuts, and other things, those additions are not the Irish way. Try the classic recipe below, and then slather it with Irish butter while the slices are still steaming hot from the oven. I think you’ll agree that simpler is better! And if you’re making the soda bread on St. Patrick’s Day, have it alongside corned beef and cabbage.
- 400 g (about 3 1/2 cups) Janie’s Mill All-Purpose flour
- 3g (1/2 tsp) Salt
- 4g (3/4 tsp) Baking soda
- 1 1/2 cups Buttermilk (add more if needed)
- Preheat the oven to 450° F.
- Place the flour in a large wide bowl and add the salt and baking soda. Stir to distribute dry ingredients evenly.
- Make a well in the center and pour in all the buttermilk. According to Darina, you should grip the edge of the bowl with your left hand then make your right hand into a claw (reverse if you are a citóg (left handed) and stir in a full circular movement from the center to the outside of the bowl. By the time you reach the edge of the bowl, the bread is made.
- Add a little more buttermilk if needed in order in incorporate all the flour. The dough should be soft but not wet and sticky.
- Gather the dough together and turn it out onto a floured work surface. Don’t knead! Instead, flip it over and pat gently into a round that’s about 1 1/2 inches thick.
- Transfer the round onto a floured baking sheet. Cut a deep cross right out to the edges of the loaf (this is called “Blessing the bread”), then prick it in the four segments to let the fairies out. According to Darina, “This is vitally important otherwise the fairies will jinx your bread!”
- Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes then turn the oven down to 400°F for another 20 minutes. The top should be a deep golden-brown, and the bottom should sound hollow when tapped. Serve warm, slathered with Irish butter!
Brown Soda Bread: Replace half the all-purpose flour with whole kernel flour or dark rye flour.
Cheese-Topped Scones: After the soda bread has been shaped, flatten it out and cut into pieces to form scones. Brush tops with an egg beaten with a little milk, dip tops into shredded cheese and bake 10 minutes in a 450° F oven.
Posted on March 13 2020