We all have our culinary weaknesses, and for me, baking bread is one of them. There’s some sort of magic in creating the perfect loaf that just doesn’t seem to exist within my fingertips without a lot of trial and error.
But, thankfully, for those two left spatulas like myself who still wish they could make fresh bread at home, there is hope.
Because there are easy, fool-proof bread recipes out there that anyone can make.
And this brown soda bread is one of them.
What is soda bread?
Unlike most bread recipes, traditional soda bread doesn’t use yeast, eggs, butter, or sugar. Instead, the baking soda serves as the leveling agent (hence this bread’s name) and the chemical reaction with the buttermilk helps create a moist, spongy bread.
Where did soda bread come from?
The origins of this bread aren’t so much tied to a place as they are to a class. In most cases, soda bread was popular in the “poor country,” since the low cost of the main ingredients made them easy to come by for those with little means. And because of this, soda bread was a recipe born out of necessity in different places around the same time.
There are variations of this bread that date back to colonists of the Americas, the farmlands of Scottland and Ireland, holiday celebrations in Serbia, and even the Australian bush – but for the most part, they all keep the same four core ingredients.
What does soda bread taste like?
The taste of this bread is very mild and similar in flavor to a biscuit. But as with most bread, it’s not designed to be eaten on its own; it’s meant to be an accent to other flavors typically served with bread, like butter, jam, or meat.
What other flavors can you add?
If you’d like to enjoy this bread on its own, there are a few ingredients you can add to the recipe to give the bread a bit more flavor. When making this recipe, you can add a combined total of 1/2 to 1 cup of any of the below options:
- Caraway seeds
- Dried fruit (such as cherries)
Notes & tips for this authentic soda bread:
- When baking this recipe, I used two round cake pans (one to place the bread in and another flipped upside down and placed on top of the bottom pan). I’ve found this method works best to get the right size and bake quality for the bread.
Other festive Irish recipes
Traditional Soda Bread
An inspiration for countless other recipes, this traditional soda bread only needs four ingredients and comes together quickly (no knead, no rise). And if you'd like to add some extra flavor, it's easy to add other classics like caraway seeds, raisins, or nuts.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.
Slowly pour in buttermilk with the dry ingredients, mixing constantly with a spatula. Dough may become very sticky; this is okay.
Once buttermilk is incorporated, transfer dough to a floured surface. Generously flour your hands and knead the dough a few times until it has a smooth, round shape, but be careful: how much you knead the dough at this stage will impact the density of the bread. Less kneading will give a lighter, more airy bread; kneading more will create a dense loaf (like pictured).
Transfer dough ball to prepared baking pan and gently press the dough toward the edges of the pan so that it forms a disk. For decoration, use a sharp knife to cut an X in the top of the dough, making each cut about 1/4 of an inch deep.
Cover baking pan with another round baking pan turned upside down.
Bake soda bread, covered, for 30 minutes, then remove the top baking pan. Bake uncovered for an additional 10 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
Remove soda bread from the oven. Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Dust the top of the bread with a small amount of baking soda (optional).
Serve bread as desired. Bread can last in a sealed container on the counter for up to 1 week.