Many years ago I went with some friends to an Irish pub to listen to some Celtic music and have a bite to eat. The Irish friend we went with swore the soda bread that came with the stew was as authentic as he had ever tasted. I'd never had or even heard of soda bread, but it was truly delicious. So I went back to the kitchen and bothered the old cook until he agreed to jot down the recipe. He seemed kind of surprised by my request. He said it was just "regular ol' soda bread".
All these years later, I finally pulled that old scrap of paper out of my recipe box and tried it out. It was badly written - more of a scribble really - and it was smudged with god-knows-what from the kitchen. I've got several of these kinds of scraps-of-paper in my recipe box ... things I want to try but don't want to write out properly until I've tested the recipe.
As an FYI, I found many recipes on the net for Irish soda bread, and lots of them seem to treat this as a dessert bread. Although this recipe does have sugar in it, the old cook confided to me quietly that it's not supposed to have sweetener, and the traditional soda bread probably wouldn't have had butter either. Certainly not raisins or yeast or some of the other things some people put in it. This is not a dessert bread. It's dense and hearty. You could serve it with butter and jam for afternoon tea, or with eggs for brunch, but it goes particularly well with stew or soup, especially if you're like me and you like to have something bready to sop with.
For more on the history and traditions of soda bread, check out the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread.
On with the recipe!
Irish Soda Bread
4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
Mix the dry ingredients together. Beat the egg in a separate bowl, then mix in butter and buttermilk. Add wet mixture to dry, stirring with a spoon, and then mixing with your hands. Knead about 2 minutes on a lightly floured surface.
Traditional Irish recipes usually shape the dough into a round, but I opted for the bread pans. Shape the dough into a large log, divide in two and place in greased bread pans. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes.
Serve with Irish stew (that'll be tomorrow's post!) or hearty soup.
Here are some alternative recipes you might want to try:
* Traditional Soda Bread Recipes - from the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread
* Grannie Foster's Soda Bread - this recipe - claims to be the authentic one - uses a skillet
* Family Fun's Irish Soda Bread - for the sweeter kind