Baked with sodium bicarbonate or baking soda, rather than yeast, Irish soda bread is a variety of quick bread and a St. Paddy’s Day staple. The dough bread usually contains salt, flour, and buttermilk. The lactic acid in the buttermilk reacts with the sodium bicarbonate to form carbon dioxide bubbles. Other ingredients, including eggs, raisins, or nuts, can also be incorporated into the bread. Generally, the recipe calls for a coarser flour, either white or whole meal, to create a moist texture.
Historically, Irish soda bread was cooked on a griddle as a flatbread. In Ireland, the dough is made with a soft wheat flour, such as cake flour or pastry flour. Soft wheat flours contain lower levels of gluten compared to bread flours, fostering a crumbly texture. Throughout different regions in Ireland, bakers use various types of flours. In Fermanagh, bakers make a savory version of the bread, whereas in Ulster, the dough is sweetened.
Since Irish soda bread uses baking soda instead of yeast, the recipe can be prepared quicker than yeast breads, which require temperature control and kneading. Quick breads like Irish soda bread are a great alternative to traditional bread recipes for beginner bakers. Certainly, everyone should try making a batch of Irish soda bread this St. Paddy’s Day!!