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Irish Soda Bread Recipe & History

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Have you ever made Irish Soda Bread?  With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, I thought it was time to pull out our favorite traditional Irish Soda bread recipe again! IF you have Irish roots, or even if you wish you did, this recipe it a fun one to make in March or at any time of year.

Traditional Soda Bread is a type of quick bread that is a common food for Irish families!  You will find it at many St. Patty’s day celebrations.

This round loaf of bread is so fast to make. You don’t have to let this bread rise like yeast bread, so it can be made at the last minute. I always think of making bread way too late for dinner, so I love good quick breads.  It has a biscuit-like taste, but it hearty and crusty.  I made mine with half whole wheat flour and half white flour, to make it a little healthier. But either way works great!

Learn about the Science of Yeast Bread, too!

The History of Irish Soda Bread & the Science, Too!

The history of soda bread does not go back as far as you might think. It dates back to the 1830’s when the first form of baking soda was introduced to the United Kingdom.  Ireland was in a time of great financial struggle. This was just before the great potato famine. They needed to make foods from basic, inexpensive and traditional ingredients. The bread is very filling, which was also necessary.  And, as I mentioned, it is a very quick and easy recipe to make, so anyone could pull it off.  It was cooked in an iron pot over, like a dutch oven, over open hearths, on a flat griddle, or cast iron skillet.

And, while this quick bread is attributed to Ireland, it actually originated with the Native Americans, in the United States. The Native Americans used a natural leavening agent made from pearl ash, or potassium carbonate (Also called potash). This is a natural form of baking powder that was made from the ashes of wood. This pearl ash was refined in kilns and resembled a white salt. When it was mixed with something mildly acidic, such as sour milk, molasses, or honey, a chemical reaction occurred.  Bubbles of carbon dioxide would form and cause cakes or breads to rise.

Modern day Baking powder is a combination of an alkaline sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and an acid salt like cream of tartar. This alkali/acid combination is necessary for the release of carbon dioxide gas bubbles to make the batter rise.

How to Make Irish Soda Bread


3 3/4 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 2/3 c. buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Pour in the buttermilk. (If you don’t have buttermilk on hand add 1 Tbsp of lemon juice for each cup of milk and let it sit for 5 minutes or so.) Mix the dough with a wooden spoon. Dust the counter with flour and gently knead the dough.  It can be a sticky dough.  Pat it into a circle and place it on a baking sheet. Use a sharp knife to slice a criss cross on the top of the bread loaf before baking.

Bake the bread for about 30 minutes. Check it to make sure it isn’t browning too quickly. If so, reduce the temperature a little. Cool slightly before eating.  It will have a hard crust and a dense texture in the center.

This is a delicious bread & is wonderful to make any time of year!  It is great dipped in hearty stews!

Try some different varieties- make it a sweeter bread by adding some raisins and orange zest.

See More St. Patrick’s Day Ideas:

Printable St. Patrick’s Day Jokes for Kids
St. Patrick’s Day Rainbow Craft for Kids
Green Eggs Chemistry Experiment

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