Non-Irish Soda Bread (because I have not a drop of the blarney in me)


I was inspired by Heather who was aided and abetted by Auntie Craes to make Irish Soda Bread the other day.  Heather and Bob came over for dinner a while back (around St. Paddy’s Day) and brought with them a loaf of bread from Auntie Craes.

Heather regularly has tea biscuits made with this same recipe for a morning snack and couldn’t resist a full loaf when opportunity knocked.

We enjoyed the loaf they brought so much that I decided to make some for us and so cobbled together a recipe after reading about twenty variants on the same thing. I am now kicking myself for not having figured out this recipe years ago. It is incredibly easy. Behold


  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 cups milk**
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice **
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda

** can substitute 2 cups of buttermilk for both of these ingredients, if you have any on hand. I never do.

  1. add lemon juice to milk. Leave for to sour for ten minutes while you do the next few steps.
  2. preheat oven to 375F
  3. grease bread pan (loaf) or cookie sheet (rounded loaf or buns), depending on what kind of loaf/buns you’re making
  4. measure flour, salt and baking soda into bowl.
  5. mix
  6. when ten minutes have elapsed (for the souring milk, you remember), dump milk (it’ll look gross) into bowl with dry ingredients
  7. mix until it’s sort of holding together
  8. plop onto table and knead about a dozen times, until smooth. Don’t overdo it.
  9. Shape into rounded loaf (don’t forget to pinch seam together underneath), loaf (ditto) or roll/flatten out to about an inch thick and cut circles with a cutter or glass. Place loaf on/in appropriate pan. Place tea biscuits on sheet so that they’re barely touching.
  10. Slash top of loaf with a knife to allow for expansion. Be bold. Slash deep. Trust me.
  11. Stuff in over. Loaf will be done in about 45 minutes. Tea biscuits take about 20 min or so. Check loaf for done-ness by picking it up (use oven mitt!!!) and thwacking it on its bottom. If it sounds hollow, it’s done.
  12. Allow to at least mostly cool before cutting. Cutting too soon causes it to crumble and then dry out. Not appetising. Tea biscuits can be cut at once and are stellar with homemade jam.

I’d show you a picture, but the loaves keep vanishing…


5 Comments Add yours

  1. I’m looking forward to sampling yours! I assume that’s the same recipe Auntie Crae’s uses: their soda biscuits are slashed as well to make them lovely and crusty on top. Although they only have Kraft jam-packets to spread on, they are very very good, not to mention cheaper than scones or other more voluminous treats.

    I wasn’t able to go in person yesterday and prevailed upon a colleague who was picking up everyone’s coffee and snack; when he asked for “soda bread and raspberry jam”, the server said, “What, Heather’s not coming today?” Roll-up-the-rim ain’t got nothin’ on that.

    My parting question: where did the ancient Irish get the baking soda?

  2. VickyTH says:

    More than you ever wanted to know about the origins of baking soda:

    Intriguingly, it’s a pretty old substance. Comes from the same source as washing soda…

  3. rexton says:

    Aside: Here’s a neat link showing when different food products first showed up in the historical record. Soda water showed up in 1767, and yeast breads date back about 6000 years. Bread, beer, and soup date to about 10,000 BCE, so a workman’s lunch dates back to hunter-gatherer days?

    Just a little more history. The Irish started making Irish Soda Bread in the 1840’s. There are chemical ways of producing baking soda, but it produces some toxic byproducts. It can also be extracted from a mineral called Trona, and some other minerals.

    Wyoming has a huge deposit of Trona (as mentioned in her first reference), supposedly enough to satisfy world consumption for at least a few thousand years. The mining is tunnel, not open-pit, and employs a few thousand miners. Many manufacturers have switched over to Trona as their Sodium Bicarbonate source, arguing that it produces less pollution and is cheaper to use.

  4. sarai. says:

    Thank you Vicky. This recipe saved me today… I was going to bring some whole-wheat bread to a department potluck, but it just wasn’t rising, and there was no time, and no ingredients.

    Not having any fresh milk on hand, I used an unspeakable mixture of cream, evaporated milk, powdered milk, and water to cobble together two cups of dairy, and the bread turned out quite nicely. Easy, fast, and student’s-kitchen-friendly!

  5. VickyTH says:

    Glad to have helped! It’s not often you can save someone with just flour, milk product, soda and lemon juice!

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