Soda bread is what is known as a quick-bread. This means that it uses chemical leavening to produce the bubbles inside the bread (as opposed to yeast). This does make it a quick recipe. A loaf can be made and baked in under an hour, ready to bring over to a friend's house for dinner.
American soda bread tends to be more cake-like. It is often heavily sweetened and light and airy, I have even seen recipes for soda bread that call for cake flour. I say no! No to this cake in bread's clothing! This recipe makes a delicious, not too rich, bread.
Enjoy it as a great side to your St. Patrick's Day dinner, or anytime.
Update: The terminology seems to vary concerning this kind of bread. Some people have described this as bannock instead of soda bread, while others have shown me bannock and it is a different item. Some have noted that this must be an American version, but it is nearly identical to an Irish recipe I was given. It's quite the example of the diversity of the English language.
Step 1: Ingredients and Tools
Here are the ingredients used in the soda bread:
2 Cups White Flour
2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Soda (Bicarbonate of Soda)
3 Tablespoons of Butter
1& 3/4 Cups Cultured Buttermilk
Optional Ingredients -Add any of these if you want a twist on your soda bread.
2 teaspoons Caraway Seeds
1 Cup Raisins
1 Tbsp Sugar (if you like a sweeter bread)
Dry Measuring Cup
Liquid Measuring Cup
Pastry Blender (optional)
Step 2: Mix Dry Ingredients
Then, cut the butter into thin slices. Put these slices in your flour, and use the pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour. If you do not have a pastry blender two butter knives can be used. Push down with the pastry blender, periodically mixing with it. Remove any butter that gets stuck on it and place it back in the bowl. Do this until the mixture once again resembles a powder, with no chunks of butter remaining.
If you've never used a pastry blender before, I'm sure you will find it quite easy. It's a tool worth picking up. It is very useful for pastries, pies, and mashing bananas. If this whole butter thing sounds too difficult you can omit it if you like, although the result is nicer with the butter.
If you are using raisins add them to this mixture, rolling them through your hands so they are separated. Stir them in, covering them with the flour mixture.
Step 3: Mix and Knead
When the dough has come together (most of the flour is integrated) and has a shaggy look to it, scrape the dough from the spoon into the bowl. Flour your hands thoroughly, make sure to get some between the fingers. Knead the dough in the bowl for 1-2 minutes. Fold the dough in half, press it down, fold again.
When you have finished kneading, shape the dough into a ball.
Step 4: Shaping and Baking
Next, "score" the loaf using a sharp knife. Make an X shape across the bread as shown. This helps the bread expand consistently and also makes it easy to divide when you are getting ready to eat it.
Put the bread in the preheated 425F oven. I placed my pan on top of a baking stone, but placing it on the middle rack will work perfectly. Bake for 45 minutes.
Step 5: Bake and Cleanup
Put all your dishes in the mixing bowl and fill it with water to allow the dough bits to soak a few minutes. Then wipe down the area you did this in, it is probably dusty with flour.
Take a break, wash and dry the dishes, and you should already be able to smell the soda bread baking. Try not to peek.
Step 6: Cool, Cut, and Eat!
Slice into it with a knife and enjoy. It goes quite well with whiskey butter.
To store it, place the bread in a plastic bag or your breadbox. It stores surprisingly well and makes a great breakfast, just make sure it doesn't dry out.