Friday, December 08, 2006

irish soda bread

this any time of the day bread is one of the fastest & easiest you will ever make. follow my instructions below and you will, i hope, be rewarded with a gorgeous light lemony yellow coloured fully-bloomed loaf.

interestingly, this bread is a recent "invention" of the mid 1800's in ireland where the introduction of baking soda replaced yeast in certain applications such as the now famous "irish soda bread". sorry to disappoint; no memories of, or links to, stonehenge here with this one! it can be made with either buttermilk or soured milk. i imagine a nondairy version can be made with soured soy milk; i haven't as yet tried it.

the bread is adorned with an X and is said to be the sign of the cross and put there to ward off any evil — obviously, a very catholic belief. in actuality, the scoring of the precooked loaf helps with the bloom of the bread when it experiences its oven spring and to designate individual portions.
It shocks some people to learn that Irish Soda Bread hasn't been around for thousands of years. It wasn't until around the 1840's that bicarbonate of soda (Bread soda) as a leavening agent was introduced to Ireland. The basic soda bread is made with flour, baking soda, salt, and soured milk (or buttermilk).

quote from the
it is also said that traditionally irish [soda] bread was not "baked" in an oven but rather in a pot, known as a bastable, which was placed over the fire in the hearth.

photo & an interesting article: european cuisines

from ballina-mayo ireland:
The three-legged iron pot is the origin of the term to make "Pot luck" In country districts it is used for roasting, stewing and for making cakes and bread. In Counties Limerick and Cork it is also called a Bastable oven, and the bread made in it a "Bastable Cake". Glowing turf (peat) sods are put on top when baking or roasting is being done to ensure even heat. The pot can be raised or lowered by a chain, and three short feet enable it to stand at the side of the hearth.
according to the article about soda bread by darina allen of the irish kitchen of irish recipes from abroad,
The word bastible seems to be a bastardization of the name Barnstaple, the town in Devon where these iron baking pots were made.
i bake mine, as i bake many of my breads, in a clay cooker known as la cloche, (the bell). it heats up first in the oven at a high temperature and then the bread is put inside and the lid replaced. this helps maintain a superhigh heat and the moisture needed to produce a decent loaf. one may try to reproduce this with a le creuset type pot in the hot oven. make sure the pot and lid go in the oven first to ensure they are sufficiently hot when the bread is added. take extreme care when placing the loaf in the pot and the oven.

this, of course, does not mean you can't bake yours conventionally on a baking sheet without one of these implements. the results will be similar and just as good.

to read more about this bread, look at the irish soda bread page. it will tell you the real facts about this irish bread!

you can also find an interesting article about this bread by ita artt. as she says, a bread best enjoyed warm slathered in butter and jam with a nice hot cup of tea! i say, don't forget either the devon double or clotted cream!! might as well go for 48 - 55% butterfat of these wonderful creams. if you don't finish it the day it is made, the bread will last well-wrapped for a day or two.

today you can even buy everything premixed, just add your liquid and bake!

remember this is a quick bread — it will not have the same chewy developed gluten structure as you would have with a baguette or country loaf. it has more of a muffin-y structure.

irish soda bread

makes one smallish loaf


3 c AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

1 1/4 c + 2 tbsp buttermilk


preheat oven to 375 F.

place dry ingredients in a large bowl.

make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk.

mix gently until you get a shaggy mess and most of it is incorporated. don't worry about the extra that hasn't mixed yet.

in the bowl, use your hands to make a more or less rough ball that has incorporated all the ingredients. note that with this bread, you are not to work it like you would a regular bread and that the finished look after the 2 minutes "kneading" will not result in a completely smooth ball. do not over work this dough for best results.

place the ball on the countertop on a cutting board. with your hands, flatten the ball slightly and make an X or a star[burst] shape about a 1/2 inch deep. let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

sift some flour over the top of the bread and place the dough in the hot oven. bake the bread for 40 minutes.

after 40 minutes you will get a gorgeous loaf. let it cool a bit and then dig in!

read more about the evolution of cauldrons and the development of cast iron for domestic use here. there are fascinating pictures of early celtic pots — prototypes, i imagine, of the later ones used to bake an irish soda bread in the mid 1800s.


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Your Irish Soda Bread looks marvelous! It's funny, yesterday, I thought about this bread and now I find this post!!! I'll really have to make this easy bread once...

burekaboy — said...

hey rosa - you will see it how ridiculously fast/easy it is to make. i have tried a few different versions and this one, IMO, is the best.

ML said...

What yummy, lovely looking bread! The pictures are great! I really like step by step instructions like that.

annie said...

What a great looking loaf of bread! I have a few questions about the La Cloche Brick Oven. Since it is clay, do you preheat the oven? Preheat the La Cloche? Soak in water prior to baking? As you can tell, I'm full of questions. And I want a La Cloche Brick Oven. *sigh* Actually I wanted one before reading your post, but you completely sealed the deal. So, tell me all you know about cooking with one. (I'm going to search your blog in case you have a post about it already...if not, you should get right on it!)


Ostara said...

Yum! I baked a loaf to have with dinner tonight. Thanks for another delicious recipe! (I imagine it would be good with raisins, currents, lemon zest, or even grated cheese added before kneading - what do you think?)

BTW, I don't have a cloche, but it did turn out well using a baking sheet - not quite as pretty as yours but crunchy outside and moist and yummy inside. Photo here:

burekaboy — said...

hiya annie! - thank you, thank you. it's one of those loaves you can't really mess up too badly. it also has you-know-what in it!

so to answer your questions, yes the oven needs to be preheated. you put the clay parts in the cold oven to heat up as the oven heats. it does not have to be soaked each time save the first time it is used.

it is basically a two piece deal with a round bottom and a bell shaped cover with a handle. it's quite simple in design but the heat it retains and gives off as the bread cooks is enough to simulate a brick oven to produce the proper ovenspring and crust. it is well worth the investment. i have not been let down by it yet.

there is another shape, too. it is a rectangular one.

follow the link i put to order it. i think it may be available from WS or Sur la Table. it is manufactured by sassafrass.

three warnings: it is heavy, does take up space & gets tremendously hot. in spite of this, it'll be one of your best investments. put it on the Xmas list! FAST. lol.

annie said...

Well, I noticed right off the bat that it had buttermilk in it! I think it is a sixth sense thing. I'm going to get the baker asap. I love to make bread. Bread...the staff of life. (No one ever said Protein...the staff of life now did they.) I love everything about bread. How it feels when you make it, how it smells when you bake it, and how it tastes when you eat it!

burekaboy — said...

ostara!! - i am so happy to hear of your success. i have never been let down with this recipe.

your soda bread looks incredibly perfect! i don't think many people use a cloche to bake theirs anyway. if you do have a cast iron pot like a le creuset dutch oven, try it that way one time with cover on. no need to remove the cover during baking. it browns regardless. you'll see the difference it makes.

i think those are great suggestions for additions. i like the cheese idea a lot and the lemon zest.

did j help?? hope he did. it's fun to see how it turns into a beautiful crusty loaf from this big blob of snow white dough. ;p

thanks for trying another recipe! more to come! have to keep you guys well fed! LOL.

burekaboy — said...

ml - thanks for the compliment! i also like seeing the step by steps. i am pretty visual, i guess. makes for more interesting posts, too.

annie - you said it, nothing better than fresh bread. especially making it yourself. i will be posting more bread stuff in the near future so stay tuned. looking forward to hearing about your soon to be acquired new "toy"!

Ostara said...

J is off visiting this weekend, so I was a solitary baker - but its definitely something he'd enjoy. Next time, I'll try using Grandma's cast iron pot. It's over 100 years old and, since Grandma was Irish, I'm betting it's baked a few loafs of soda bread before! Thanks for the suggestion.

burekaboy — said...

ostara - hehe, then all the more for mom to eat! at least, it keeps well for a day or two.

too cool that you have that cast iron pot from your grandmother!! i am sure it would do the trick for a "perfect" irish soda bread. just like in the old country! lol. if you do, i wanna see a picture and hope you post it! along with, of course, a (short) story featuring your irish grandmother!! :-}

aria said...

stunning! wow i think i actually have the ingredients to make this. sounds and looks so delish and might be bread i can handle. yum! thx bureka boy!

burekaboy — said...

hey aria - lemme know how it goes! nothing you can really mess up too much with this recipe. go for it!

chanit said...

לא אכלתי אף פעם לחם כזה, שלך נראה יפה וטעים

Ostara said... ancestor story. Good idea, burekaboy! :-)


burekaboy — said...

chanit, לחם הזה הוא הלחם של אירלנד שאוכלים כל יום. הוא לא כמו לחם יומי שמכירים. אומרים שיש לו טקסטורה של מופינס יותר

ostara - amazing post! i don't think many people today have that much family history locked into one box! :)

Krithika said...

looks fabulous ! thanks for the little tit-bits about this bread. BTW, love your comments on my blog. keep visiting !

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I tried your Irish Soda Bread recipe last week and it was great! I loved it. Thanks for sharing it with us all...

burekaboy — said...

krithika - your blog is great! i shall be back to read and comment. thanks for stopping by.

rosa - wow! always happy to hear about successful results. glad to hear you loved it. ostara made it too and was very successful. she posted pictures of hers, if you are interested in seeing. thank you for your feedback.

The TriniGourmet said...

I've always wanted to taste irish soda bread. I have a few recipes for it and I've just bookmarked yours as well! :D

burekaboy — said...

hey sarina - it is terribly easy to make but as i mention different from standard bread. i think you'd have fun making it. let me know if you do! would like to see your results. two other bloggers have tried it and had very successful results.

The Irish Baker said...

This look like an interesting recipe and I'll have to try it.

I have always used Breadsoda though in my soda bread, both white bread and brown bread (aside, The Irish term "Brown Bread" is generally taken to mean Soda Bread made with wholemeal flour). The trouble with Breadsoda though is that you have to make sure it's sieved fully as lumps can prove disastrous and that you use Buttermilk - so the idea of Soda bread without breadsoda is an interesting one.

Thanks for the recipe. BTW, did you know why you cut a cross on the top of the bread ? To let the fairies out!

burekaboy — said...

irish baker - thanks for stopping by and commenting! i wonder if your bread soda is the same as the baking soda we use here. i haven't tried making irish soda bread with wholemeal (wheat) flour. i'm not sure what you meant though -- there is both baking powder and soda in this one. did you maybe not see it? buttermilk is there to further activate the baking powder and soda to produce a lighter loaf/crumb (chemically speaking).

i like the reason why you're slashing the bread! so THAAAAT'S what flew out when i made the bread! :))

let me know what you think if you try it. i think i'll trust your comparison as you are the irish baker :) two other fellow bloggers have tried it and both said they enjoyed it.

Michelle Henderson said...

I'm a little late with the comment, but just a note to say thank you! I hosted a dinner party for members of our church and served your bread. Because it was a fasting meal (ie no animal products or yeast), I substituted the buttermilk with the same amount of soya milk + 1 tbsp lemon juice. My bread was a big hit! In fact, we liked it so much, I think I'll make it a part of my regular baking repertoire!

burekaboy — said...

hi michelle :) - thanks for your comment and visit — better late than never. i'm glad to hear that you & the members of your group enjoyed the bread; i imagine, from what you said, it was for the lenten period. i haven't tried it (yet) substituting soymilk & lemon for the buttermilk so i appreciate the feedback that it worked out just as good. hope you try it with the buttermilk, if you haven't already, to compare. it's an easy bread to make and comes out really beautiful, as i'm sure you saw from your results. not sure if i mentioned it in the post but you can also bake it in a preheated "le creuset" dutch oven w/ lid to approximate the original bastable oven. this helps with the 'blooming' or expansion of the finished loaf and the crust formation.