A Traditional Irish Soda Bread Recipe With Whole Milk
Can I Make Soda Bread Without Buttermilk?
Yes, you can! This recipe for brown soda bread uses whole milk (also called full-cream milk) as an alternative, but you can, of course, use buttermilk if you have access to it.
Soda bread is a quick bread that uses buttermilk and baking soda (aka bread soda) as leavening agents, rather than yeast. This recipe only uses a few ingredients and can be easily prepared in 15 to 20 minutes, with a cooking time of 39 minutes.
- 1 pound (500 grams) whole brown flour
- 350 milliliters (1.5 US cups or 12.5 fluid ounces) whole milk, or buttermilk
- 1 rounded teaspoon baking soda (bread soda)
- 1/2 level teaspoon salt
- 5 dessertspoons vinegar
- For a fan oven: 374 F or 190 C
- About 20C higher for a non-fan oven
- Weigh out 1 pound (500g) of whole brown flour and empty it into a mixing bowl. You don't need to sieve it unless it's very lumpy.
- Measure out 12 1/2 fluid ounces (350ml) of milk into a jug and add 5 dessert teaspoons of vinegar. Stir and allow to curdle. Alternatively, use buttermilk without the vinegar. If you're using a loaf tin, you can use up to 400ml of milk, which makes a sloppier mixture.
- Meanwhile add a rounded teaspoon of baking soda to the flour and thoroughly dry mix with a wooden spoon.
- Next add the milk to the flour and thoroughly mix, ensuring all the flour is wetted. If you're using a baking tray, the mixture needs to hold together without spreading on the tray, so add more flour if it's too sloppy.
- You can bake on a tray or in a loaf tin. A loaf tin has the advantage of containing the mixture and keeping it from spreading, so don't worry if it's sloppy.
- If you wish, you can spoon out the mix onto a floured working surface and knead it into a flattened ball. Sprinkle flour on the pile of dough before handling and while kneading to make it less likely to stick to your fingers. If you don't want to get your hands dirty, spoon the mix out onto the baking tray and shape and pummel it with the wooden spoon and a dessert spoon until it's approximately round. Smooth the top with a dessert spoon (a little oil helps to keep the spoon from sticking).
- Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes at a temperature of 374 F (190 C) until the bread starts to brown. If you don't have a fan oven you may need to increase the temperature by 10-20 degrees C.
What's a Leavening Agent?
A leavening agent is used to raise sponge and bread and make it more fluffy. Leavening agents produce carbon dioxide gas (CO2) which expands and makes the mixture lighter and porous. Yeast can be used as a leavening agent but an alternative is to use an acid and alkali as ingredients that generate CO2 as a byproduct when they combine in a chemical reaction. Baking soda (alkali) and buttermilk (containing lactic acid) are common raising agents but you can also use vinegar which contains acetic acid.
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What Other Ingredients Can be Used in Soda Bread?
Want to try something different? Instead of using 1 pound of wholemeal flour, use a 50/50 mix of flour and some or all of the following:
- Wheat germ
- Rolled oats
- Desiccated coconut
- Milled linseed
- Sesame seeds
- Ground almonds
- Mixed seeds (usually sesame, pumpkin, sunflower, poppy etc).
I've found that the coarseness of some of these ingredients seems to reduce the extent to which the bread rises, so you could try experimenting with blending them before mixing.
© 2018 Eugene Brennan