Thursday, March 14, 2013

Irish Soda Breads

Irish Soda breads are delicious and a great thing to make when you need a bread that is quick and easy. Soda bread gets its name from Baking Soda, which provides the leavener, making them much quicker than yeast breads.

From "Irish soda bread, as we know it today, surfaces in the mid-19th century, when bicarbonate of soda was first used as a leavening agent. Prior to this time, similar breads and raised cakes were made with sourdough and barm brack, yeast created by fermenting ale."

Irish Soda Bread comes in three varieties: White, Brown, and with raisins or currants. Originally, soda bread was just a simple mix of flour (probably wheat flour originally) baking soda, a touch of salt, and Buttermilk. Because most Irish were poor at that time, this bread originally did not contain "luxury" ingredients like sugar and raisins. Those were added later.

There are many different recipes for Irish Soda Bread, and depending on which part of Ireland your family hails from, ingredients will vary. My family's recipe for Irish Bread (which is now lost to the ages) did not contain carraway seeds, but my husband's old family recipe does. Whether you add sugar or raisins, at its core soda bread is still four basic ingredients: Flour, Baking Soda, Salt and Buttermilk.

Brown Soda Bread (Americans often call it "Irish Brown Bread") is not sweet and is made with wheat flour (usually a mix of white and wheat flours). It is a delicious hearty bread to eat with soup, or just serve it warm with butter. One great easy recipe comes from Darina Allen and can be found on the KerryGold website: Darina Allen's Brown Soda Bread (Special thanks to my Irish friend Claire for passing that along!)

Raisin Soda Bread, or what my family just calls "Irish Bread" is slightly sweet, moist and dense, with a smattering of dark and golden raisins. My in-laws make this for every holiday dinner, and learning how to make it is a rite of passage in his family. Our recipe has a small amount of carraway seeds, but you can omit them if you'd like. Granny Mahoneys Irish Bread

1 comment:

  1. I had never heard of this "soda bread" until about a year ago, and since it has become one of my favorites!