Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Irish Soda Bread

Today the temperature is in the sixties, the wind easterly with a touch of damp sea chill. I had been making myself sick with nostalgia, humming "Autumn Leaves." The falling leaves drift by the window/ The autumn leaves of red and gold/ I see your lips, the summer kisses/ The sun-burned hands I used to hold. Nothing for it but to light the oven and bake; in this case I mean "light" not turn on. The Chambers stove is gas-fired; the pilot light is turned off. I strike a large kitchen match and hold it to the gas jet in the oven. The flame catches with a chuff, then a whoosh that settles to a hum. I set the gauge at 375 degrees.

This is the easiest bread to make. There are only four necessary ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt, buttermilk. (I add caraway seeds.) As you can see, I shopped at my ordinary supermarket, though sometimes I get bulk organic flour from Whole Foods.

3 cups flour (I like 1 cup of whole wheat and 2 cups of white all-purpose flour.)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/1 cups low fat buttermilk

Mix the dry ingredients throughly. Make a well in the center of the mixed dry ingredients. Add one cup of the buttermilk. Mix. Add the remaining buttermilk, mix, and turn the dough out onto a floured board. Gently knead for a minute. Pat into a circle about two inches thick. Place in an oiled pan and slash the top of the loaf, making a deep X. (I use a cast iron frying pan.) Bake for about 35-45 minutes. The bread will be golden and have doubled in size. And your house will be warm. Let the bread cool for at least a half an hour before eating.

I think of Irish soda bread as poor farmer's bread. There are no eggs, sugar, yeast or butter. The Irish in America made the bread richer by adding butter, currents, raisins, candied fruit, carraway seeds. I prefer the plain loaf. (If you have questions about the recipe, please let me know.)


  1. What a beautiful oven! And countertop :)

    Can't wait to try this.


  2. The old stove is heavier than an old bank safe. Good luck with baking without baking powder. The combo of baking soda and buttermilk gives lift-off.