By Meghan Gourley
Like corned beef and cabbage, soda bread is worthy of more than its annual day on the plate. There are plenty of recipes, but my favorite is from James Beard who spent several weeks in Ireland and recreated the famous bread as he experienced it there. Unlike most recipes, his calls for whole wheat flour and baking powder, but no eggs.
The trick to a good Irish soda bread is the right amount of moisture in the dough—too much buttermilk and the top will burn before the inside cooks; not enough and the bread will turn out dry. Control the texture of the dough by adding the buttermilk one splash at a time—you want it to come together in one very sticky ball.
You should wind up with bread that is smooth, slightly dense, and perfectly salty. It’s great with a slab of butter or slice of cheddar. You can use it as sandwich bread, like James Beard, or cut it thinly and toast it. I like it griddled—the way I had it in Ireland.
Ireland’s Famous Bread from Beard on Food
Time: About 45 minutes
Makes: One round loaf
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 “very level” teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 to 2 cups buttermilk
Butter for greasing
Optional: 1/2 cup raisins or currants and 1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
- Heat the oven to 375 dgF.
- Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
- Stir in the buttermilk, one half cup at a time, until the dough is soft but sticky. (I used the entire 2 cups.)
- Lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough for a minute or two.
- Shape the dough into a round ball and place it on a buttered baking sheet; cut a large cross in the top with a sharp knife.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the outside is brown and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it. Serve immediately or store for up to a few days.