Irish Soda Bread (white and wholemeal)

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There's nothing quite so Irish as Soda Bread. In a country where the quality of flour was such that it responded badly to commercial yeast, then using baking soda as a leavening agent provided a viable alternative. 

Irish soda bread is made with low-gluten flour: ideally, plain flour (UK) or all-purpose flour (USA). It started off as white bread but by the 980s, wholemeal soda bread was appearing on the menus of high-class restaurants. 

Traditionally, it's the effect of the acid in bicarbonate of soda combining with the alkali of buttermilk that causes the chemical reaction that produces the bread. However,  buttermilk can also be substituted with it Guinness or yoghurt.

You'll find a step-by-step guide for BreadClub20 Guinness soda bread here:

Today, we're going to make two types of soda bread: traditional white and the more fashionable wholemeal soda bread. 

With both recipes, ensure that you preheat your oven to 230⁰C before you start. This is indeed a 'quick bread'. 


450 gms plain white flour (low-gluten, e.g. 9% = 10%)

5 gms crushed sea salt

5 gms bicarbonate of soda

332 gms - 388 gms buttermilk (depending on the absorption of your flour)


225 gms wholemeal slour

225 gms white plain / all-purpose flour

5 gms crushed sea salt

5 gms bicarbonate of soda

400 gms - 425 gms buttermilk (depending on the absorption of your flour)

15 gms unsalted butter, melted. 

METHOD (for both formulae)

Into a large bowl, mix the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda. 

Add more or less all the buttermilk and bring it together into a clump. Stirring around with your hand from the centre out to the edge will bring it together well. 

Tip it onto a floured board and use a little flour to clean up the bowl and your hands. 

Do not knead the dough, simply bring it together into a ball, tucking it in using the palms and edges of your hands. Finally, press it down gently so that it ends up being about 1½ inches high. 

Transfer to a well-floured baking sheet.

Using a sharp knife, cut the cake into four portions and then prick each portion with the point of the knife. This not only ensures that the heat penetrates to the middle of the bread but it also allows the faeries to escape before they are trapped in the dough and baked in the oven. 

As soon as possible, transfer to the hot oven for about 30 - 35 minutes. We place it straight into the oven so that the carbon dioxide created by the reaction of the buttermilk and the bicarbonate of soda is not lost and, instead, produces the air bubbles needed to raise the bread. 

The loaf is baked when it's golden brown and hollow when tapped on the underneath. 

Happy baking....Bácáil sásta


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