Soda bread. What is it?
It’s a type of quick bread that us
es a base of 4 ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk (or a soured milk). The lactic acid from the buttermilk reacts with the baking soda to form tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide, this giving the bread it’s rise. Baking soda was used as it was easier to find during the 19th century rather than raising yeasts. Also, the types of wheat that were used in Ireland worked better with baking soda (soft wheat) and over all, it was a better overall quality bread that was very inexpensive to make. The cost appealed to many for obvious reasons.
Soda Bread is synonymous with the Irish, however the Irish didn’t invent this bread. There are references to American Indian
s making a leaven bread similar, only more of a flat bread than a loaf (using Pearl Ash as well). Whether they invented it or not, they certainly eat and and present it as their own, and especially encouraged to bake this during St. Patrick’s Day.
One of the earliest recipes published was in “The Southern Planter” published in 1843. The recipe was: “how to make bread using 7 pounds of wheaten flour mixed with 350 to 500 grains of carbonate of soda with about 2 3/4 pints of pure water.
Mix separately 3/4 pint of water with pure muriatic acid (420 to 560 grains). Divide the flour into two parts. To one add the soda solution gradually, well stirring and beating the mixture. Then add the other portion of flour and while mixing pour in the diluted acid. Lightly kneed on a board for a short time. Loaves should be 1/2 lb to 1 1/2 lb each. Best baked under tins. Common salt can be added for taste.”
Whatever the recipe you use, Soda Bread is a lovely addition to your kitchen table (and not just for Saint Patrick’s Day, but all year around), whether it is as is, or you add dried fruits, nuts or other add ins. There are many modern recipes available online by googling Soda Bread.
Here are a few modern recipes:
Thanks to the Society for the Preservation of Soda Breadfor much of my details as well as some tips from Wikipedia.