Irish Soda Bread and Scones

Jan. 28, 2020, noon

In the days before refrigeration, milk would have soured more quickly, so soda breads were a way of making use of it, although now it is more common to use commercially produced buttermilk. Baking soda is the rising agent in soda breads.

Soda bread can be made in minutes! You can also bake this bread as they would have in the old days in a Dutch oven. It can also be cooked on a griddle.

The dough can be made into a loaf or into scones.

Soda breads are best eaten on the day they are made, but are still good for a day or so more. It also makes great toast.

It has a lower glycemic number and is lower in gluten if that is important to you.

We will be using Darina Allen's recipes for today. She is considered to be the Julia Child of Ireland and she owns Ballymaloe Cookery School in County Cork, Ireland. I really want to take classes there some day!

Ballymaloe Cookery School, County Cork, Ireland

1 pound all-purpose flour, preferably unbleached
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ¾ cups buttermilk, or sour milk, depending on consistency
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Sift the dry ingredients into a large, wide bowl.
Make a well in the center and pour most of the buttermilk or sour
milk in at once.
Grip the bowl with one hand and use the other hand to mix in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish and not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface. Wash and dry your hands so the dough is easier to handle.
Tidy up the dough and flip it over gently. Then pat it into a round about 1 inch thick and cut a deep cross on it which is done according to Irish folklore in order to let the fairies out! Let the cuts go over the sides of the bread to make sure of this.
Bake for 15 minutes, then turn down the oven to 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until cooked. If in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread – if it is cooked it will sound hollow.

Make the dough as above, and flatten it into a round about 1 inch deep. Cut into scones. Cook for about 20 minutes in a hot oven. The tops can be egg washed and dipped in grated Cheddar cheese or a mixture of seeds and grains – sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, etc.

3 ½ cups stone-ground whole wheat flour
2/3 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda, sifted
1 egg
1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 teaspoon honey, molasses or dark brown sugar
1 2/3 cups buttermilk or sour milk
sunflower or sesame seeds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Brush the inside of the loaf pan with oil.
Put all the dry ingredients including the sifted baking soda into a large bowl and mix well. Whisk the egg, adding it to the oil, honey, and the buttermilk or soured milk.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in all the liquid.
Mix well, adding more milk if necessary (the mixture should be soft and slightly sloppy).
Pour into the oiled pan. If desired, sprinkle the seeds on top.
Bake for about 1 hour or until the bread is nice and crusty and sounds hollow when tapped. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

3 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2/3 cup raisins (more if you would like)
1 egg
1 1/3 cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Into a large mixing bowl, sift the flour and baking soda; then add the salt, sugar, and raisins. Mix well by lifting the flour and fruit up in to your hands and then letting them fall back into the bowl through your fingers. This adds more air and therefore more lightness to your finished bread. Now make a well in the center of the flour mixture.
Break the egg into the base of a measuring glass and add the buttermilk to the 1 ½ cup line (the egg is part of the liquid measurement) and mix together. Pour most of this milk and egg mixgture into the flour. Using one hand with the fingers ooen and stiff, mix in a full circle drawing in the flour mixture from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, but not too wet and sticky.
The trick with Spotted Dog, like all soda breads, is not to overmix the dough. Mix it as quickly and gently as possible, thus keeping it light and airy. When the dough all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface. Wash and dry your hands.
With floured fingers, roll the dough lightly for a few seconds – just enough to tidy it up. Then pat the dough into a round about 2 inches thick. Transfer to a baking sheet dusted lightly with flour. Use a sharp knife to cut a deep cross on it, letting the cuts go over the sides of the bread. Prick with a knife in the four triangles.
Put into the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 400 degrees. Cook for 35 – 40 minutes. If you are in doubt about the bread being cooked, tap the bottom; if it is cooked it will sound hollow. This bread is cooked at a lower temperature than soda bread because the egg browns faster at a higher heat.
Serve freshly baked, cut into thick slices and smeared with butter and jam. Spotted Dog is also really good eaten with Cheddar cheese.

Store Irish soda bread at room temperature or in the freezer depending on how long you want to enjoy this hearty bread.