Top tips on how to make the perfect Irish soda bread
Life & Style

Top tips on how to make the perfect Irish soda bread

HANKERING for a real taste of home this weekend?

If you fancy some freshly-baked, just out the oven, Irish soda bread then cook latest bread recipes are just the foodie fest you're after.

Whether it's to go with that Irish fry-up or a more health-conscious Eggs Royale, here are top baking tips and two foolproof recipes for the perfect soda bread...

Wholemeal Soda Bread

Wholemeal soda bread is as classic an Irish food as you can get.

It’s easy to make, fast to get into the oven and requires no bread-baking skill to get right.

While it is best eaten warm, it also makes a great base for smoked salmon or cheddar cheese – a snack that’s fit for any occasion.

The results you get depend on the type of flour that you use – a good-quality stoneground wholemeal will give you a lovely nutty texture and flavour.

This recipe mixes half and half wholemeal and white, as a fully wholemeal loaf can be a bit heavy.

Feel free to throw in a handful of porridge oats or wheatgerm.


250g/9oz stoneground wholemeal flour, Ballybrado do an excellent one

250g/9oz plain white flour

1½ tsp bread soda

1 tsp salt

350ml-400ml/12-14floz buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 200C/390F/Gas 6

1. In a large bowl mix the flours with the bread soda and salt.

2. Pour in most of the buttermilk and mix with your hand in a claw-like shape to bring the ingredients together into a sticky ball. Don’t handle it too much – some of the dough will stick to your hands, but just rub them together and it will come off.

3. Sprinkle some flour on the table and tip the dough out onto it. Knead it gently for a minute to bring it together into a ball and flatten the ball with your hand until it is about 6cm/2 inches deep

4.Place the dough onto a floured baking tray and cut a cross shape into it using a bread knife.

5. Bake in a preheated oven at 200C/400F/Gas 6 for the first 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 180C and bake for a further 30-40 minutes until the loaf is golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap it on its bottom.

6. Cool on a wire rack, traditionally the loaf was cooled standing on its side (pre wire rack days) and draped with a slightly dampened tea towel which resulted in a softer crust.


White Soda Cake

The women of Thomondgate in Limerick were known to be great bakers and would leave their cakes of warm bread to cool on the windowsills of their kitchens; the more cakes you had cooling, the better off you were.

Since then, people from the area are known as ‘Sodacakes’.

Traditionally, the bread was baked over the fire in a cast-iron pot, but you can bake it in any standard oven.

It takes literally minutes to throw together and the secret is simple: go easy, don’t handle it too much.

Use your hand like a claw to bring the few ingredients together and then you’re done.

The oven needs to be good and hot, as for all bread baking, so make sure you turn it on about half an hour before the bread is ready to go in.


(Makes one cake/loaf)

5g/1 generous tsp bread soda

5g/1 tsp salt

600g/1lb 5oz plain flour or white spelt flour

400ml/14floz buttermilk, use real buttermilk leftover from butter-making
 if you can get it

Preheat the oven to 200C/390F/Gas 6

1. In a large bowl mix the bread soda with the flour and salt.

2. Pour in the buttermilk and, using a claw-like action, bring the flour and buttermilk together until everything is combined and forms a wet ball.

3. Turn out onto a floured surface and, using a little more flour, gently shape the dough into a round, then flatten slightly with your hands. The raising agents will already be at work so if you press your thumb into the dough it should leave an impression.

4. Flour a large baking tray and carefully transfer the dough onto it (place your hand under the dough as you lift it to support it). With a large bread knife, cut a cross into the bread ‘to let the fairies out’ or let the dough expand.

5. Bake the bread in the preheated oven for 40-50 minutes until golden and hollow-sounding when the bottom is tapped.

6. Cool the bread by an airy window, or under a damp tea towel until it’s just the right temperature to cut into thick slices and drown with butter. It’s unlikely any will be left to go cold.


BakingBread-n Get the best results by using good quality flour

Top 5 baking tips

1. Bread is the stuff of life and needs a good mood to bake a great loaf so channel happy thoughts and put them into your bread, it will work better and taste great.

2. You can't make a silk purse out of a sows ear. Bread is almost 100 per cent flour so ensure great results by buying good quality flour (and oats and other ingredients)

3. The bake is as important as the ingredients, be sure that your oven is good and hot for at least 20 minutes before you bake so that you get a great rise on your loaf.

4. Enjoy your delicious home-baked loaf with the best butter money can buy, Irish butter of course!

5. Sit down and savour the flavours and textures of your bread, pat yourself on the back for baking and bask in the praise you get from friends and family. Happy baking!