St. Patrick is the Patron Saint of Ireland. St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated every year on the 17th of March. This is a day when all people can “Go Green” and be Irish for a day.
It’s also a day when many Irish dishes come to the forefront in homes and restaurants across the globe – Irish dishes that otherwise would not be making their worldwide appearance each year if it weren’t for the celebration of this cherished Irish saint.
Some of these dishes are Corned beef and Cabbage, Irish Stew, Shepherd’s Pie, Dublin Coddle, Potato Casserole, Bangers and Mash, and Irish coffee to name a few. And, not forgetting the many other food items that can be made, then dyed green – cupcakes, cookies, scones, and even beer!
Many of the dishes above you can find year-round at Irish Pubs. The one food Item we see come and go each year is Irish Soda Bread.
It is quick and easy to make and has many variations. In this post, we will focus only on the traditional way of making this celebratory bread.
Outside of the fact that this is a day when everyone can be Irish and “Go Green”, it’s also a good day for bread baking. Irish soda bread has many variations. And, it is almost impossible to find it without raisins.
Traditional Irish Soda bread, from what I was always told by the various Irish colleagues that I’ve worked with, is basically a soda bread that has none of the following: raisins, yeast, eggs, or any significant amounts of sugar. It is a bread, not a cake!
So, therefore, a traditional soda bread uses baking soda, instead of yeast as a leavening agent, and it contains only flour, buttermilk, baking soda, and salt.
The buttermilk’s acidity reacts with the baking soda to produce the gasses needed to raise the dough. This is what gives this bread it’s very distinctive taste.
As a chef, I truly believe that variations of a classic are not always a good idea. Variations can be equal to, and even at times more delicious than, their classic counterpart, but should never be classified as a real McCoy!
Irish Soda Bread – The Real McCoy!
( 4-loaves )
- 800 g (28 oz.) – Wheat flour
- 400 g (14 oz.)- Flour ( all-purpose ) , plus a little extra for kneading and dusting
- 2 tsp – Baking soda
- 2 tsp – Salt
- 900 ml – (3.75 cups) – Buttermilk
- Preheat the oven to 450-f (230-c)
- Mix the wheat and plain flours, baking soda and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center, pour in the buttermilk and mix into a soft, slightly sticky dough.
- Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly until it comes together into a ball. Cut in half and knead each piece briefly into a smooth round.
- Do not over-knead! It will make the bread heavy.
- Slightly flatten each round into 1-1/2 inch ( 4cm) thick discs, then place them far enough apart to allow for spreading on a baking sheet lightly dusted with flour. Using a large, sharp knife, cut a large cross into each loaf, being careful as to not cut all the way through the bottom.
- Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 400 f. ( 180 c.) and bake for another 10 minutes until well-risen with a golden-brown crust.
- The loaves should sound hollow when you tap their bases. This is a good way to test for doneness when baking most breads and this method works well with these soda breads as well.
- Remove from oven and let cook cool on a wire rack. Serve with some delicious Irish butter.
The life and story of St. Patrick is truly interesting. Take a moment to learn more.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!