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The Many Soda Breads

Discover Ireland with me



I did not grow up with green beer,  corned beef and cabbage  and soda bread that tasted like cake.  Irish soda bread was and still is something quite different. If you have ever visited Ireland or plan to, you will hear people offer you brown bread with your soup or salmon. When they do this, they are referring to soda bread. 
Let's consider the origins of soda bread. We were a poor nation. A farming nation with a plentiful supply of wheat and dairy. This was an easy to make all-in-one mixture, made with buttermilk. The buttermilk we find today in our grocery stores really is nothing like the buttermilk our ancestors used to use. It was a byproduct of butter churning or from churning fresh milk into butter (sweeter one which people drank)  Wholemeal flour was more widely available. Baking Soda was added as a leavining agent.
The average Irish home in the 1800’s did not have an oven so thay baked the bread in a pot known as a ‘Bastible’. This pot was suspended over an open fire and baked. Raisins were not used in the early times. As they were imported, they would have been considered a luxury item. It was said that if these were added, It was a sign of wealth or added for a very special occasion.  There are various myths and reasons behind the cross marked on the loaf of bread. The most common of all is that it is indeed the sign of the cross and was used to ward off evil. Others will tell you it was marked to make the bread easier to divide and there are also discussions around the fact that it had a lot to do with the chemistry of baking.  There are so many recipes now for soda bread but the basic ingredients are flour, buttermilk and baking soda.  I like to add an egg in some recipes along with wheat germ, bran and oatmeal. I make a white soda with grated cheddar cheese and jalapenos when serving it with home made leek and potato soup.
The bottom line is if you  have a recipe in your family and you love it, then that is the perfect soda bread. 
Make a soda bread in a loaf pan and add dried sliced apple, raisins and sprinkle with brown sugar.