Rye and Oatmeal Soda Bread on wooden table

Rye and Oatmeal Soda Bread

I regularly make a number of different types of soda bread but this is the first time I have made a Rye and Oatmeal Soda Bread. I made two types, one using a dark rye flour and one using light rye.

The idea for this version came after someone posted a question in my Irish Soda Bread With Ancient Grains (Rye, Barley, Oats, Spelt) recipe collection asking if I had tried the rye bread with oats – so thanks to Frankie.

If you find a rye loaf a little heavy then adding the oatmeal will definitely help to make the bread lighter.

Note: Before you start it is ideal to soak the oatmeal in buttermilk overnight.

What is Soda Bread?

Soda bread is a traditional Irish bread that uses baking soda instead of yeast to make bread rise. Carbon dioxide is what actually causes the bread to rise and is produced when the lactic acid in the buttermilk reacts with the alkali baking soda.

Soda Bread can be made with just four ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk. White Soda Bread and wholemeal or brown are the basic soda breads.

Soda bread really is very simple, easy and quick to make and if you want to start making your own bread but have little time then I suggest giving it a go.

Different varieties of Soda Bread

I like to experiment by adding different grains and other ingredients such as nuts, seeds, spices, dried fruit, sugar, honey or treacle to the basic white and brown soda bread recipes. Oatmeal, rye or barley are examples of just a few grains that work very well and just as with yeasted or sour dough bread you can make many different varieties, some traditional, some modern. See my Irish Soda Bread With Ancient Grains (Rye, Barley, Oats, Spelt) recipe collection.

Why is there a cross on Irish soda bread?

Although Irish legend has it that cutting a cross in the top of soda bread ‘lets the devil out’ and children are told by many that the cut will let the fairies out, it does also have a practical purpose – the cut helps the dough to cook evenly throughout by letting the steam escape!

What you will need to make this Rye and Oatmeal Soda Bread

Rye and Oatmeal Soda Bread on a wooden board with two casserole dishes in background

Apart from the usual kitchen items and tools you will need a cast iron casserole pan – the ones I used for this Rye and Oatmeal Soda Bread recipe were approximately 20cm in diameter.

If you don’t have a casserole dish then bake on a floured baking tray – see the directions for the details – I have included an extra optional step.

The reason I like to use a casserole dish to cook my bread is that it is closer to the original Irish way of cooking soda bread. My great grandmother made her bread on an open fire using a bastible – a large cast iron pot which could be suspended or set to stand over the fire. Heat could also be provided by adding embers to the top. The image below is taken from the Irish American Mom website, which also includes an interesting account of how the author’s granny used a bastible until the 1960s.

A fire burning in a hearth with a pot hanging over it and clothes drying on a line.

Ingredients you will need to make Rye and Oatmeal Soda Bread

Jump to Printable Recipe

  • 225 gm / 8 oz / 1 ½ cups fine or medium oatmeal
  • 225 gm / 8 oz / 2 cups rye flour (dark or light) (Note: oatmeal is heavier than rye flour)
  • 1/2 pint / 300 ml / 1 ½ cups approx. buttermilk (or sour milk if you don’t have buttermilk). You may need to add more buttermilk if your dough is too dry.
  • 1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 level teaspoon of salt
  • 1 dessert spoon of sugar

Directions

  1. Soak the oatmeal in the buttermilk (see Buttermilk alternatives) overnight.
  2. Sieve the dry ingredients (rye flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar) into a bowl.
  3. Stir the dry ingredients into the soaked oatmeal and mix together to make a soft dough. You may need a little more buttermilk as you stir.
  4. Tip dough onto a floured working surface and shape into a round 1 ½ inches / 4 cm thick.
  5. Cut a cross in the dough.
  6. Place in a greased cast iron casserole dish (20cm ideally) and bake in a pre-heated oven 400°F / 200°C / Gas Mark 6 for 55 minutes or until well risen and browned.
  7. IF YOU DON”T HAVE A CASSEROLE DISH do this instead of step 6 – Place on a floured baking tray and bake for 30 minutes at 400°F / 200°C 180°C Fan / Gas Mark 6. Then lower the temperature to 350°F / 180°C / 160°C Fan / Gas Mark 4 for another 15/20 minutes.
  8. Turn your loaf out of the casserole dish (or take out of the oven if not using a casserole dish).
  9. When cooked the bread should sound hollow when tapped on the base.
  10. Wrap in a clean tea towel and cool on a wire rack.

Buttermilk alternatives

Buttermilk is the product left over after butter churning. In the past many families in Ireland had a milk cow so would make their own butter. They of course put the excess buttermilk to good use.

The production of butter eventually became a commercial concern and as a result so did the production of buttermilk. Nowadays it is made by adding a bacterial culture to skimmed milk.

If you don’t have any buttermilk you can use sour milk, full fat natural yoghurt, soured cream, kefir or cream of tartar.

Rye and Oatmeal Irish Soda Bread

Recipe by Scones Plus More Course: BreadsCuisine: IrishDifficulty: Easy
Prep time

20

minutes
Cooking time

55

minutes

Make sure you soak the oatmeal overnight in buttermilk, or one of the alternatives.

Ingredients

  • 225 gm / 8 oz / 1 ½ cups fine or medium oatmeal

  • 225 gm / 8 oz / 2 cups rye flour (dark or light) (Note: oatmeal is heavier than rye flour)

  • 1/2 pint / 300 ml / 1 ½ cups approx. buttermilk (or one of the suggested alternatives). You may need to add more buttermilk if your dough is too dry.

  • 1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

  • 1 level teaspoon of salt

  • 1 dessert spoon of sugar

Directions

  • Soak the oatmeal in the buttermilk (see Buttermilk alternatives) overnight.
  • Sieve the dry ingredients (rye flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar) into a bowl.
  • Stir the dry ingredients into the soaked oatmeal and mix together to make a soft dough. You may need a little more buttermilk as you stir.
  • Tip dough onto a floured working surface and shape into a round 1 ½ inches / 4 cm thick.
  • Cut a cross in the dough.
  • Place in a greased cast iron casserole dish (20cm ideally) and bake in a pre-heated oven 400°F / 200°C / Gas Mark 6 for 55 minutes or until well risen and browned.
  • IF YOU DON”T HAVE A CASSEROLE DISH do this instead of step 6 – Place on a floured baking tray and bake for 30 minutes at 400°F / 200°C 180°C Fan / Gas Mark 6. Then lower the temperature to 350°F / 180°C / 160°C Fan / Gas Mark 4 for another 15/20 minutes.
  • Turn your loaf out of the casserole dish (or take out of the oven if not using a casserole dish).
  • When cooked the bread should sound hollow when tapped on the base.
  • Wrap in a clean tea towel and cool on a wire rack.

Some quick tips

  • Make sure you soak the oatmeal overnight in buttermilk, or one of the alternatives.
  • When soaking the oatmeal in buttermilk or one of the alternatives overnight keep it in a cool place.
  • Handle the dough as little as possible, this will help to make the bread lighter.
  • You should be ready to add more buttermilk if your dough is too dry as you stir in the buttermilk.
  • Don’t forget to cut a cross in the dough.
  • Put your bread into the oven as soon as possible – bicarbonate of soda reacts with the buttermilk straight away.

Some quick tips on making Rye and Oatmeal Soda Bread

When soaking the oatmeal in buttermilk or one of the alternatives overnight keep it in a cool place.

Handle the dough as little as possible, this will help to make the bread lighter.

You should be ready to add more buttermilk if your dough is too dry as you stir in the buttermilk.

Put your bread into the oven as soon as possible – bicarbonate of soda reacts with the buttermilk straight away.

Happy Baking!

Tanya

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