Celebrate St. Paddy’s Day with Irish Soda Bread (and Organic Majestic Butter)
There are plenty of classic Irish dishes that you could choose from to enjoy on St. Patrick’s Day — corned beef and cabbage, colcannon, or Irish stew — but why not stick with the classic and traditional Irish Soda Bread and with a pat of Majestic’s new Organic butter? While some of these dishes were, in fact, traditions started by Irish-Americans, soda bread is one that is enjoyed throughout Ireland and America at all times of the year. But did this style of baking bread truly originate in Ireland?
Most breads we know and consume today use yeast as a leavening agent to allow it to rise as it’s baked. Soda bread gets its name from the unique method by which it is leavened - by using soda or sodium bicarbonate, commonly known as baking soda. In the nineteenth century, baking bread made a resurgence in popularity in the home and Irish people discovered new ways of baking with the least expensive ingredients available to them since most of the country was in poverty at the time. Made with a “soft” flour, soda bread combines just a few ingredients, soft wheat flour, baking soda, salt and soured milk, to make the delicious bread. Soft wheat flour is low in gluten and used in most quick bread recipes as it works better with baking soda rather than yeast. The climate in Ireland is particularly suitable for growing this type of wheat, which contributed to the popularity of soda bread.
However, this leavening method did not originate with the Irish people. The earliest reference to using “soda” to make bread is in Native American culture. Indigenous Americans used pearl ash to leaven their bread. Pearl ash is a form of soda that is made from the ashes of wood. It wasn’t until the late 1830s that the first form of baking soda was introduced in the United Kingdom and Ireland and the process of using soda as a leavener was then replicated with soda bread.
Today, some of the ingredients may vary, but two things will always remain the same — the soda and a smear of Organic Majestic butter to serve it with. You can’t call it Irish Soda Bread without it! If you want to make a classic Irish Soda Bread this St. Paddy’s Day, try one of our favorite recipes:
Irish Soda Bread
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 cup raisins or dried currants
- 1 ½ to 2 cups buttermilk, shaken
- Organic Majestic Butter, for serving
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda and raisins until well combined. Then make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk.
- Use a wooden spoon or your hands to combine the buttermilk with the dry ingredients until a loose dough forms. The dough should be soft, but not sticky or wet and not overly dry. If the dough seems dry, slowly add more buttermilk (up to ½ cup). It should be able to hold its shape when formed into a loaf and placed on the sheet pan.
- Once it's well mixed together, transfer it to the sheet pan and using your hands, form it into a round shape. The loaf should be roughly 8 inches in diameter. Use a paring knife to gently cut a large “X” in the top of the loaf.
- Bake for about 45 minutes or until browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom of the loaf. Allow it to rest on the sheet pan until it is just warm to the touch. Then slice and add a generous smear of Majestic Butter to each slice. Enjoy!
- Store your soda bread wrapped in a damp cloth or tea towel and keep on the counter. This will prevent the crust from getting too hard.