Buttermilk soda bread and jars of buttermilk on a table

How to Make Buttermilk Soda Bread

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Soda bread is a simple, delicious, yeast free bread. My Irish grandmother made her soda bread using traditional buttermilk ie: the liquid left when making butter.

Last week I was asked which liquid I prefer to use in making scones. I usually use cultured buttermilk which I make myself. It is a very simple process. You can obtain dried buttermilk culture online – just search for “buttermilk culture” and you will find several companies supplying it. Instructions for use may vary with suppliers but I find my simple method works well.

As the traditional buttermilk my grandmother used is not readily available nowadays I use my cultured buttermilk (recipe below) in her soda bread recipe.

I bake my soda bread in a 2 litre cast iron casserole as this is the nearest one can get to the traditional “bastible” cast iron pots used on an open fire with embers piled on top. This method of baking gives a softer crust and moister crumb. I use the same casserole for making sour dough bread – look out for this recipe in a future blog!

How to Make Buttermilk Soda Bread

Ingredients

  • For the Buttermilk
  • 1 litre full cream milk

  • 1 sachet dried buttermilk culture

  • For the Soda Bread
  • 1lb wholemeal flour

  • 8oz plain white flour

  • 1 rounded teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

  • 1 teaspoon of salt

  • 3/4 pint buttermilk (approx)

Directions

  • For the Buttermilk
  • Stir the sachet of dried buttermilk culture into the milk which should be at room temperature – approx 20 – 24C – and pour mixture into a jar or jug and cover.
  • Stand in a warm place for 12 – 48 hours until it thickens. It usually takes about 24 hours.
  • Once thickened store in refrigerator for up to 7 days.
  • You will now have a continuous supply of buttermilk.
  • To make more you simply add 1/4 cup of your buttermilk to 1 litre of fresh milk and allow to stand until thickened as before.
  • For the Soda Bread
  • Mix the flours, salt and soda together.
  • Stir in the buttermilk to make a soft dough using a little more if necessary.
  • Turn out onto a floured working surface and shape into a round.
  • Grease your casserole dish and line the bottom with baking parchment.
  • Drop the dough into the casserole and smooth the top. The tradition is to now cut a deep cross in the dough.
  • Put a lid on the casserole and bake in a pre-heated oven 400F / 200C (180C Fan) / Gas Mark 6 for 1 hour.
  • Turn cooked bread out of casserole and wrap in tea towel and allow to cool for at least 4 hours before slicing.
  • If you prefer to cook your bread without the casserole shape it into a round about 1/2 inches / 4cm thick and place on a greased and floured baking tray. Cut a deep cross in the top. Bake for 25 mnutes at 425F / 220C (200C Fan) / Gas Mark 7 then reduce temperature to 350C / 180C (160C Fan) / Gas Mark 4 and bake for another 15 minutes.
  • Remove bread from baking tray and cool wrapped in a tea towel as before. Allow at least 4 hours before slicing.

Notes

  • Soda bread like all breads is best served fresh – when stale it makes delicious toast. This recipe is a very simple basic wholemeal bread but there are many different types of soda bread, both brown and white. They are quick to make and make a very pleasant change from yeasted breads.
  • This soda bread made with wholemeal flour is also known as wheaten bread in Ireland

A Modern Variation

Seeded Soda Bread

Add 2 tablespoons of seeds eg: pumpkin, sunflower or sesame to my grandmother’s recipe before you add the buttermilk or sour milk.

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