Irish Soda Bread (Arán Sóide)

Brown Soda Bread (Presoak Recipe)

by Cat, Sept 2007 (photo, right, by Cat, Jan 25, 2019)

Soda bread is a hearty, delicious bread using baking soda as the leavening agent, instead of yeast. It is quick and easy to make, but is best eaten right after baking, as it does not keep well for more than 1 – 2 days.

I recommend trying the first recipe (Original Brown Soda Bread) before trying the sprouted flour version or the Presoak version (second recipe), to get an idea of what the texture of the dough and amount of moisture should feel like before baking.

Soda Bread (arán sóide in Ireland)

Traditionally, soft wheat is used for this bread (such as whole wheat pastry flour). But I prefer the flavor of whole wheat graham flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill brand), or whole grain spelt for their sweetness.  OR you can use sprouted grain pastry or spelt flour.

The second recipe (presoak) takes longer to make, because the whole grain flour is soaked with yogurt/buttermilk overnight before the bread is mixed and baked.  Soaking whole grain flour in an acidic medium like yogurt makes the bread easier to digest and improves its available nutrition.

The third recipe is an all-white flour recipe that I’ve not tested (because I prefer the flavor and nutrition of whole grain flour)

I like to serve this bread with a cod dinner, Dublin Coddle (an Irish stew made with pork sausages, bacon, potatoes, carrots and onion), or a traditional Irish brisket (or corned beef) and cabbage.

Original Brown Soda Bread

Adapted from The Irish Heritage Cookbook, (1) this wonderful, quick and easy bread makes one loaf (half the cookbook recipe).  It’s best eaten after cooling slightly, and doesn’t keep well (unless you freeze it), so just make enough for one – two days.

I love the sweet flavor of the graham flour; whole grain spelt will produce a similar taste, but you need to use less buttermilk.  The mix of whole grain and white flour produces a light but hearty loaf.  You can use a higher ratio of whole grain flour if you wish. Refer to Wheat (about) for more info.

Graham flour is made from the whole grain wheat (usually hard red wheat), but is not sifted during milling, and is ground more coarsely so that the bran and germ are distinctly visible (4). It can also be made by separating the bran and germ from the endosperm (the white flour portion), grinding each separately, then mixing them together (5).

Because graham, spelt and sprouted flour is naturally sweeter than regular flour, I recommend using the lesser amount of sugar for your first batch, to get an idea of the sweetness, then adjust accordingly for future batches.

Spelt notes:

  • Spelt is more similar to wheat pastry flour (soft wheat), than hard wheat.
  • Spelt is naturally sweeter than wheat flour.
  • Spelt is not as dry as wheat so requires less moisture (or 2 – 4 Tbsp additional flour); or use a little coconut flour when kneading (about 1 Tbsp), as it will absorb excess moisture.
  • Other, dryer whole grains such as oat, barley or rye mixed with the spelt can also absorb the excess moisture. I like to use 2 – 4 parts spelt to 1 part each oat (or rye) and barley; for example, 1 cup spelt and ¼ cup each oat and barley.

Another option is to use sprouted whole wheat pastry flour or sprouted whole spelt flour; you may need less buttermilk/yogurt when using sprouted grain flour, so start with the low end of the given range. I purchase mine from Granite Mill Farm, 75 Whitepine Creek Road, Trout Creek ,MT 59874; phone (406) 827-1095; website: granitemillfarms.com.

See also Other True Grains (about) for more about these grains.

Ingredients & Equipment:

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 4000 F.
  2. Combine dry ingredients and mix well in large bowl.  Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, two knives, or a pastry fork.  Add buttermilk and stir with wooden spoon to a soft dough.
  3. Sprinkle about 1-2 Tbsp flour onto the bread board or other kneading surface.  Turn dough out onto the board and knead, adding more flour as necessary to keep it from sticking, for about 2 minutes.
  4. Shape into a round and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand, to a round about 6 inches in diameter, and transfer to a greased baking sheet.  With a sharp knife, cut a cross in the top, about ½ inch deep.
  5. Bake 35-40 minutes, until done (test with a toothpick).
  6. Cool slightly on a wire rack before cutting.  Best served warm.  Store any leftover in a plastic bag, but it won’t taste as good the next day.

Brown Soda Bread, Soaked Flour Version

Brown Soda Bread (Presoak Recipe)

This version is based on the Original Irish Soda bread recipe above, but uses a higher ratio of whole-grain flour, and the yogurt bread recipe in Nourishing Traditions. Typically, only whole grain flour is used for the soak (do not use sprouted-grain flour); soaking provides the most benefits with whole grain flours. Unbleached white flour is added after the presoak. I provide two loaf sizes: original recipe, and half-recipe.

If you don’t want to use white flour, try a wheat-free flour or light rye instead, for the ‘next day’ part of the recipe. See my article, Avoiding Wheat for more.

Spelt notes:

  • Spelt is not as dry as wheat so requires less moisture (or more white flour, up to ¾ cup total on the next day); or use a little coconut flour when kneading (about 1 Tbsp), as it will absorb excess moisture.
  • Other, dryer whole grains such as oat, barley or rye mixed with the spelt can also absorb the excess moisture. I like to use 2 – 4 parts spelt to 1 part each oat (or rye) and barley; for example, 1 cup spelt and ¼ cup each oat and barley.

While I prefer to use graham flour for the soak, I also like the combination of 1 cup whole grain spelt and ½ cup whole grain barley flour. For the next day, use ½ cup unbleached white flour (wheat), light rye or ½- ¾ cup white spelt. See also Other True Grains (about) for more about these grains.

I’ve kept the cream of tartar in the recipe as per the Original recipe (above), but because of the buttermilk/yogurt presoak, the recipe may not need the additional acid.

An alternate order of mixing, would be to cut the butter into the whole grain flour before adding the yogurt/buttermilk for the presoak. This might be easier to mix than adding the butter the next day; see Feb 17, 2019 testing. Conclusion: No, it was actually harder to mix the small amount of butter into the larger amount of flour for the presoak, than to mix it into the smaller amount of white flour mix the next day.

Ingredients & Equipment (original size loaf):

Ingredients & Equipment (half-size loaf):

Method:

  1. Presoak: Mix graham flour with yogurt (or buttermilk) until it forms a slightly soft ball. You may need to add a bit of water, 1 Tbsp at a time if it is too stiff. Wrap ball in waxed paper, and leave in a warm place for 12 to 24 hours (overnight is good).  The longer the soak, the better.
  2. Next Day: Preheat oven to 4000 F.
  3. Sift white flour, salt, soda, cream of tartar and sugar, and blend in butter with fork.  Blend butter mixture into the soaked flour.  Turn out onto floured board and knead well. *
  4. Shape into a round and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand, to a round about 4 inches (small loaf) or 6 inches (large loaf) in diameter, and transfer to a greased baking sheet.  With a sharp knife, cut a cross in the top, about ½ inch deep.
  5. Bake 35-40 minutes, until done (test with a toothpick).
  6. Cool slightly on a wire rack before cutting.  Best served warm.  Store any leftover wrapped in waxed paper (or plastic bag), but it won’t taste as good the next day.

* Alternate way to mix dry ingredients with soaked flour:  Place soaked flour into food processor and process for several minutes to knead the dough.  Add remaining ingredients and process until well blended; turn out onto floured board and knead to shape the ball.

White Soda Bread

This recipe is adapted from Fine Cooking (3), and makes a larger loaf than the above recipes. A very simple recipe indeed, and it makes one large loaf, or two regular loaves (almost double the above recipes).

I’ve not tested this, as I far prefer using whole grain flour for its taste and superior nutritional value.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • 1 lb (3 ½ cups) unbleached flour, more as needed for shaping
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp Unrefined sea salt
  • 1 ½ – 1 ¾ cups buttermilk or plain unsweetened yogurt
  • Equipment:
  • large bowl
  • baking sheet
  • knife

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 4500 F, with rack in center of oven. Lightly flour a rimmed baking sheet.
  2. Sift together dry ingredients and mix well in large bowl.  Make a well in center and add 1 ½ cups buttermilk. Mix with hand, fingers apart and moving in circles. Add more buttermilk if necessary, 1 Tbsp at a time. Dough should be soft.
  3. Sprinkle about 1-2 Tbsp flour onto the bread board or other kneading surface.  Turn dough out onto the board and shape into a round almost 7” in diameter and 1 ½ inches high in center.
  4. Invert so floured side is on top.  With a sharp knife, cut a cross in the top, about ¼ inch deep, from one side to the other. Transfer to baking sheet and bake 155 minutes. Lower temperature to 400 and bake until browned and sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, 20 – 30 minutes
  5. Cool to room temperature (about 2 hours) on a wire rack before cutting.  Store any leftover in a plastic bag, but it won’t taste as good the next day.

Testing

Testing original brown soda bread recipe

I made this version many times before I learned about pre-soaking in Nourishing Tradition, but did not record those tests. Have not made it since then because I just love the presoak version. However, I will test this using sprouted wheat flour (see next).

Testing original brown soda bread recipe using sprouted whole grain flour

3/4/19: made half-recipe as written except used ¾ cup sprouted whole grain pastry flour and ¼ cup unbleached white flour. It was a bit too wet so worked in more white flour during kneading. Result: It rose nicely and has nice texture, but is too sweet. Next time I’ll use scant 1 Tbsp Rapadura instead of 2 for whole recipe, or 1 – 1½ tsp instead of 1 Tbsp for whole recipe.

Testing brown soda bread, presoak recipe

Testing Spelt version 5/13/10: Testing wheat-less version (not gluten-frree). For soak, I used 1 cup whole spelt and ½ cup light rye with 1 cup homemade yogurt. Soaked from 6 PM til 5 PM the next day. Then I mixed ⅜ cup white spelt, and 2 Tbsp potato flour (for ½ cup total),  with remaining ingredients as written, including cream of tartar. I used 1 Tbsp coconut flour while kneading, for proper moisture-level, because the mostly-spelt dough was too wet. Result: Texture is good and it rose almost as good as the Original recipe (above). Very tasty, but I miss the graham flavor of the Original recipe (above). However, the rye flavor has its own merit.

Testing Whole Hard White-Wheat: Oct 4, 2011: Made as written except used whole hard white wheat flour instead of graham flour. It was very hard to mix all the flour into the yogurt, but eventually was able to form a very stiff ball and let it soak overnight. Next day it was still very stiff so I worked in 1 Tbsp flour – very difficult. Also very difficult to work in the dry ingredients cut with butter. I turned it out onto a board to knead the mix into the ball. It did rise well and baked to a nice golden color.

Next time, use graham flour. Or if use whole hard white wheat, add 1 Tbsp water to the yogurt before stirring into the flour and add more if necessary. It should be stiff enough to form a ball, but not so stiff you cannot work it easily. It will be easier to mix in the water before soaking, than after.

Testing smaller-size loaf, with graham flour: Oct 7-8, 2017: Made as written, using graham flour and yogurt for presoak; unbleached white flour for next day. Mixed white flour mixture into the presoak mix using my fingers so the flour was well blended. Turned out onto board sprinkled with about 2 Tbsp white flour, to kneed lightly. The presoak mix had just the right amount of moisture, picking up the flour on the board and then no longer sticking to the board. Added another tsp of flour for shaping dough into a ball about 4″ in diameter. Greased a 9″ pie pan with butter and transferred the ball of dough to the pan, pressed down a bit and cut a cross on top. Into preheated oven at 3:50 to bake. Will test after 30 minutes. [sorry, lost the rest of the text for this testing].

Testing smaller-size loaf, and cutting butter into whole wheat flour as part of the presoak: Feb 17, 2019:  OOPS, I’m out of graham flour, so used ¾ cup Wheat Montana’s Bronze Chief whole wheat flour (hard, red wheat (6)) which is all I had. Cut in 1 Tbsp butter and mixed in ½ cup yogurt: It was hard to cut-in such a small amount of butter – it tended to remain in chunks – so I kneaded the dough a bit to get it to mix well. The dough is pretty dry, so I worked in 1 Tbsp filtered water, then wrapped in waxed paper, covered with a towel and set to rest at 12:30 PM. May need to add more moisture after the presoak. At 6 PM (only 5.5 hr soak) I sifted the remaining dry ingredients and tried to mix that into the dough. Added ½ Tbsp additional water to get it to mix, then kneaded a bit to ensure it was well mixed. Shaped loaf as before and placed in buttered 9″ pie pan. Cut cross on top. Into preheated 400°F oven at 6 PM. Out at 6:30 PM, baked 30 minutes. Conclusion re: butter test: It was actually harder to cut the small amount of butter evenly into ¾ cup whole wheat flour for presoak, than to cut it into the smaller amount of white flour mix (about ¼ cup) the next day. I’ll keep the recipe as it was before this test. Result:  Delicious! Would have been even better if I’d used Graham flour!

Testing white soda bread

not yet; I prefer whole grain breads

References:

  1. The Irish Heritage Cookbook, by Margaret M. Johnson
  2. Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig; see Beloved Cookbooks for more about this book.
  3. Fine Cooking: finecooking.com/recipes/irish-soda-bread.aspx
  4. Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_flour
  5. Culinary Lore: culinarylore.com/ingredients:difference-between-whole-wheat-graham-and-durum
  6. granitemillfarms.com

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