Soda Bread

Common all over Ireland, soda bread used to be cooked in lidded iron pots called bastables that were suspended over the fireplace.

This and potato bread remind me of childhood visits to my grandmother who lived in a small cottage by Lough Neigh. At that time the cottage had neither mains water nor electricity. It was a scenic spot next to an old churchyard overlooking the lakeshore. It cures me of nostalgia for anything other than lost innocence to remember how uncomfortable it must have been for her, and how few are the attractions of an outside lavatory and no bathroom.

Soda bread doesn’t keep well. If you bake in the morning for the same evening, wrap the loaf in a clean cloth to prevent drying.

If you cannot find buttermilk, use skimmed milk or even half milk, half water, but you will need to double the quantity of cream of tartar.

I have seen recipes for soda bread using wholemeal flour or part wholemeal. I’m sure this would taste fine though I have never used it myself.

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb (450 g) plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 15 fl oz (450 ml) buttermilk

Method

  1. Mix the flour, cream of tartar, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
  2. Mix to a soft dough with the buttermilk.
  3. Pat into a flattish round loaf and place on a greased baking sheet. Mark the loaf into quarters with a knife.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes at 350°F (180°C) Gas 4.
  5. Remove loaf from oven and place on a wire rack. Eat fairly swiftly while it’s nice and warm.