Irish soda bread might be one of Ireland’s most famous foods, but the technique — leavening bread with soda instead of yeast — is probably even more American than apple pie.
Native Americans prepared the first quick breads with pearl ash, a potash-derived natural soda that reacted with mild acids like sour milk or honey to release carbon dioxide bubbles.
Irish soda bread came along much later, when commercial production of baking soda made it cheap and widely available. When famine and poverty ravaged Ireland, basic soda bread, which could be prepared with just four ingredients, helped families survive. Eventually, necessity turned into tradition, and today, just about every Irish family has their own traditions regarding this classic staple. Experiment with this simple recipe and maybe you can create your own.
1-3/4 cups buttermilk
1 large egg
4-1/4 cups flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for hands and work surface
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cubed
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a round cake pan or pie dish. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl; then cut in cold butter into flour mixture with a fork, your hands, or a pastry cutter. Whisk buttermilk and 1 egg together and add to flour mixture. Bring the dough together with your hands into a circular loaf and score the top with a very sharp knife. Bake in pie dish or cake pan until golden brown — about 45 minutes. Cool for at least 10 minutes in pan before transferring to wire rack.