Say It Ain’t Soda Bread

It might be called Irish Soda Bread, but don’t let that caraway and raisin-studded white round loaf fool you. It’s Irish alright. It’s just not traditional soda bread. “Consider its origins,” says Rachel Gaffney of Rachel Gaffney’s Authentic Irish Goods. “We were a poor nation. This was an easy to make all-in-one mixture that was made with buttermilk, a byproduct when making butter. Wholemeal flour was more widely available. Raisins were never used. These were imported and if anything were a luxury for the Irish. When white flour was added, this was indeed for a special occasion.”

So, what is the real soda bread like? I recently took a stab at Rachel’s traditional recipe (below) and thought it screamed ‘hearty’ from the outside in. Its nutty and earthy flavor is a far cry from the sweet bread we consider Irish Soda Bread here in the US. This authentic version has an honest, unambiguous taste of a rugged and rich homeland. Just good, old fashioned BREAD! And with a healthy spreading of salted Irish butter (I can’t live without Kerry Gold, by the way)…lets just say it won’t last long. But that’s ok. It’s easier than pie to make.

Thank you, Rachel, for enlightening us. ‘Tis definitely one of those rare cases where the truth doesn’t hurt!

Brown Soda Bread
Rachel Gaffney’s Authentic Irish Soda Bread

3 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons wheat germ
2 teaspoons rolled oats, plus 2 teaspoons rolled oats for sprinkling
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 quart buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl mix all dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and add liquid ingredients. Mix together well, trying not to handle too much. Form a ball gently with your floured hands. Do not work this bread like traditional yeast breads. Sprinkle with remaining oats. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, make a cross in the bread with a sharp paring knife and bake for 45 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

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