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How to Make the Best Soda Bread

How to Make the Best Soda Bread

Every year when St. Patrick's Day approaches, the demand for Irish soda bread skyrockets at bakeries across America. Rahn Keucher, head baker and proprietor of Rahn's Artisan Breads in Dayton, Ohio, says "As we get closer to St. Patrick's Day, the demand for the bread increases… When the holiday falls on a weekend, we [bake] over 100 breads for restaurants, parties, and other special events." And the general rush starts much earlier than that; they start baking and selling the bread the weekend after Valentine's Day.

Click here to see How to Make the Best Soda Bread Slideshow

While it's hard to beat the convenience of running to the local baker and picking a loaf off the shelf, it's true that nothing beats homemade. And in this case, we're sure that baker won't be able to beat your homemade soda bread. That's because we have Robert Ditty's recipe, courtesy of John Blanchette, a freelance travel writer based out of Los Angeles.

Robert Ditty, perhaps better known across the pond than here in the States, is an award-winning bread baker based in Northern Ireland in the village of Castledawson, outside of Belfast. The bakery's claim to fame includes not just soda bread, but also smoked oatcakes and Christmas mince pies.

Ditty's father launched the original Ditty's Bakery in 1963 in Castledawson. There, Ditty learned the craft during his time off on holidays and in the summer while growing up. Despite the unstable environment in Northern Ireland at the time, the bakery was a huge success.

Unfortunately, the original location succumbed to a terrorist attack in 1976, and the Dittys were forced to relocate to Magherafelt in 1985. Ditty's father passed away around this time, and the younger generation took over the family business. Today, it continues to thrive, and Ditty's goods are featured at major events in Britain including the Ryder Cup and Wimbledon.

Ditty's version of Irish soda bread is simple and authentic. Soda bread, for those who aren't familiar with it, gets its name from the fact that baking soda is used as the leavening agent instead of yeast. According to Colman Andrews, editorial director at The Daily Meal and author of The Country Cooking of Ireland, the use of baking soda in baked goods did not exist in Ireland until 1846, when two New York bakers came to visit. Today, their companies are a household name — Arm & Hammer. Without them, Irish soda bread as we know it today might not even exist.

So, let's get to it before anyone's luck runs out in the kitchen. Soda bread, anyone?

Will Budiaman is the Recipe Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @WillBudiaman.

Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread is a quick bread that uses baking soda as a leavening agent and doesn’t require any yeast. This Irish soda bread is a family favorite. It has a bit of sweetness in the bread that balances out the baking soda and buttermilk. The bread has a soft, biscuit-like texture that is perfect for soaking up butter!

I tried a lot of recipes for Irish soda bread before I found one that I liked. Many of the recipes that I tried were super crumbly or far too bitter for my liking.

I found a recipe that had sugar in it, and I played around with it until I had a version that I was happy with. This recipe is a little different than some of the traditional recipes because it has a few ingredients that add more flavor to the bread (brown sugar and vanilla), and those ingredients help to balance out some of the tang of the buttermilk and baking soda.

This version has become a family favorite. Give it a try, and it may become a favorite at your house, too!

For the method, I don't follow the traditional baking standard of mixing wets and drys and then combining. I know- I'm a rebel. For this recipe, I find it is best to do it old fashioned like and combine everything in a bowl together and slowly fold together. I have found that using an electric mixer does not give me the same level of fluffiness and I find it tastes much more hearty and whole when mixed by hand. I'd mix for roughly 7 minutes or until thoroughly combined.

Now, here's where my recipe differs from a traditional Irish soda bread. I find that this bakes best in a rectangular glass baking dish, roughly a 9 x 5 pan. This is definitely up to you, but I prefer a loaf looking loaf rather than a circle.

How to Make Irish Soda Bread for St. Patrick&rsquos Day

Irish soda bread is popular around St. Patrick&rsquos Day, but it should really be something we make all year round: It&rsquos a quick recipe, meaning you don&rsquot need yeast or a starter or any special ingredients to make it. And it looks super impressive for very little work. You can whip up the dough in just a few minutes, and then all you have to do is wait patiently (for 55 long minutes!) before you have a gorgeous golden loaf. It&rsquos great on its own with coffee or served with breakfast.

In Ireland, Irish soda bread recipes are often made with currants rather than raisins (some Irish people call it &ldquocurrant bread&rdquo), but currants aren&rsquot always easy to find, so this recipe calls for a mix of golden raisins and dried cranberries. You can use any dried fruit you&rsquod like for this recipe, as long as you chop the fruit into small pieces. (Just note that black raisins can get a little dry and bitter on the crust.) The other secret to a great soda bread is to use a mix of all-purpose and cake flour. The texture of the bread is like a cross between a typical quick bread and a scone or biscuit using a little cake flour will give you a lighter, softer crumb in the finished loaf. If you don&rsquot have cake flour, check out these flour substitutes, and use a mix of all-purpose flour and a little corn starch. Baking the soda bread in a cast iron pan will help the bottom get nice and crispy, but you can bake it on a sheet pan lined with parchment, too.

This great recipe makes enough bread for a big family, so you&rsquoll probably have leftovers. Just wrap the remaining loaf in plastic, then toast slices the next day and serve with butter and jam.

Is Irish soda bread really Irish?

It is closely associated with St. Patrick&rsquos Day almost as much as green beer. But, in actuality, the first people to make soda bread were Native Americans. They used a natural form of soda to help make the bread rise without the use of yeast. It wasn&rsquot until baking soda became readily available in the mid 1800s that the Irish began baking it. That&rsquos not to say that it didn&rsquot become a popular recipe for many Irish families&mdashthe humble bread quickly became a household staple across Ireland and there&rsquos even a society to protect the bread's cultural heritage.

What does Irish soda bread taste like?

Early versions of soda bread were cooked in iron pots or on a griddle, which gave them a dense texture and hard crust. The recipe below calls for a cast iron skillet to give the bread that same unique consistency. The bread itself has a mild flavor, similar to biscuits, with a bit of tang from the half cup of buttermilk. The dried fruit also gives it that touch of sweetness.

How do you eat Irish soda bread?

Soda bread is best served warm, right out of the oven, or toasted in slices the next day. You can enjoy it any time of day&mdashfor breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even as a special St. Patrick's Day dessert! It&rsquos great on its own but even better when served with butter and jam. You can also try it with a slice of cheese and leftover corned beef, or serve this hearty bread with one of these soup recipes or beef stew&mdashit's perfect for dunking!

Bicarbonate of soda

Richard Corrigan's soda bread.

In my experience, one of the things that puts people off soda bread is the bitter tang of bicarbonate of soda, so it's important to get the balance right: just enough to raise the bread, but not enough to taint the flavour. Prince uses the most: two teaspoons per 450g of flour and oats, twice as much as Allen, yet the latter's loaf rises well enough.

  • 15 ounces all-purpose flour, such as Gold Medal (3 cups 425g)
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons (7g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt for table salt, use the same weight or half as much by volume
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons (6g) baking soda (see note)
  • 18 ounces low-fat cultured buttermilk (2 1/4 cups 510g), well shaken

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat to 450°F (230°C) at least 15 minutes in advance. Roughly cover the bottom of a deep 10-inch cast iron or enameled Dutch oven with a sheet of parchment paper no need to trim.

Combine flour, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl and whisk a full minute to combine. Stir in buttermilk with a flexible spatula until dough is fully moistened and no pockets of flour remain. For extra-fluffy results, stop folding as soon as dough comes together. For extra-chewy results, fold dough about 20 seconds more. Scrape sticky dough into prepared Dutch oven and smooth with a spatula into a rough boule-like shape. Score deeply into quarters with a sharp knife or razor, cleaning the blade between each slice.

Cover and bake until well risen and golden, 45 minutes. Remove lid and continue baking until chestnut brown, with an internal temperature of 210°F (99°C), 12 to 15 minutes longer. Invert onto a wire rack, discard parchment, turn right side up, and cool until crumb has set, about 30 minutes. Cut thick slices to accompany hearty soups and stews, or slice thinly for sandwiches. (This will be easier if bread is allowed to cool 2 hours more.) Store up to 24 hours in an airtight container and toast to freshen bread before serving.

When I was growing up in Ireland, my mother made soda bread almost every day. But it was not the sweet raisin-and-caraway-filled loaf many Americans call Irish soda bread. A real soda bread is a simple loaf with a beautifully browned, craggy crust and a nice chew, best eaten liberally smeared with salty Irish butter. Soda bread has been an Irish household staple since baking soda became commercially available in the early 19th century. It uses only a few ingredients that most people kept on hand—flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk from the “sour milk jug” every house had before the advent of refrigerators. It also didn’t require an oven it could be baked in a bastible, a type of cast-iron Dutch oven, suspended over an open turf fire. Hot embers were placed on the lid so the heat came from both the top and underneath. But now that we have ovens and refrigerators, this bread has gotten so easy to make that you, too, might find yourself baking fresh soda bread almost every day.

Get the recipe: Irish Soda Bread

Need to Know

Turn on the oven before you measure the ingredients. It should be fully heated by the time the bread is ready to bake because the acid from the buttermilk starts reacting with the baking soda as soon as they mix, creating little air bubbles that need the heat of the oven to expand and make the bread rise.

Use your hand to mix the dough. Spread your fingers, as shown above, and mix in a circular motion to keep the dough light and airy.

Forgo kneading. It will make the bread tough. Simply turn the dough out onto a floured surface, shape it into a round, and transfer it to the baking sheet.

Make the round of dough no thicker than 1-1/2 inches in the center. A thicker loaf will get spongy inside and won’t rise as much.

Try a softer crust. A good, pronounced crust is part of soda bread’s appeal, but you can wrap the bread in a clean dishtowel while it cools to make the crust more tender and pleasantly chewy.

X marks the spot

Mark the bread with a cross before baking. This opens the crust so the heat can penetrate the center of the loaf. Irish folklore holds that this is also done to let the fairies out.


This version I’m sharing today is a plain traditional Irish bread. I say it’s “plain” but it’s certainly not flavourless. You’ll find yourself devouring it with nothing more than butter! But it’s also a terrific to add flavourings, some common variations include:

Oats – inside and sprinkled on top

Seeds – sesame, sunflower, linseed and pumpkin seeds is a combination I tried at my local markets today!

More On This.

Ditty's version of Irish soda bread is simple and authentic. Soda bread, for those who aren't familiar with it, gets its name from the fact that baking soda is used as the leavening agent instead of yeast. According to Colman Andrews, editorial director at The Daily Meal and author of The Country Cooking of Ireland, the use of baking soda in baked goods did not exist in Ireland until 1846, when two New York bakers came to visit. Today, their companies are a household name — Arm & Hammer. Without them, Irish soda bread as we know it today might not even exist.

So, let's get to it before anyone's luck runs out in the kitchen. Soda bread, anyone?

It's best to leave any preconceptions at the door when it comes to soda bread, because they're probably wrong. This is especially true when it comes to ingredients. Colman Andrews, editorial director at The Daily Meal and author of The Country Cooking of Ireland, writes, "True soda bread is the simplest of things: bread made with nothing more than flour, salt, sour milk or buttermilk, and — in place of yeast — baking soda, which reacts with the milk to have a leavening effect."

What many Americans have experienced, though, is basically cake. It's got raisins or currants and it's softened up with eggs. This is fine, but should really be called spotted dog or railway cake, says Andrews, not soda bread, or traditional Irish soda bread.

Robert Ditty's grandmother used to always tell him to leave out the buttermilk overnight so that it would be at room temperature before mixing with the other ingredients.

Sift the Dry Ingredients

Flour right out of the bag tends to contain lumps, which can affect the ratios of ingredients when mixed together. So it's best to sift it into a bowl before using.

Kneading for too long will lead to tough, chewy bread. Ditty kneads for only two minutes in his recipe.

Watch the video: Ψωμί Ντίνκελ Dinkelbrot. Klarakis kouzina (January 2022).