Behind the Bread: A Soda Story

Irish Soda Bread
Irish Soda Bread

The Great British Bake Off has us baking again. But behind the elaborate pastries and the perfect pies it’s the simplicity of baking where the pleasure lies. We revisit a classic

It’s safe to say that the Great British Bake Off has been a success: BAFTA and Rose D’or awards, Radio Times Award nominations and ratings figures averaging at 4 million per episode. 

Today, the show is either in production or showing in 13 countries including Norway, Australia, Belgium, France and the Netherlands.

Baking is back and everyone wants a slice. 

The truth is, though, that in some parts of the world, baking never went away. In some parts of the world, long walks end in buttered brown bread and huge mugs of tea. In some parts of the world, smoked salmon must be eaten with an oven-fresh loaf and a squeeze of lemon. 

We happen to know where that part of the world is. 

Foodie Revolution

The Food Revolution sped through Ireland and its legacy is a tasty one. Foraging is a food trend favourite and Burren Lamb is gracing plates from Clare to Canberra. Galway and Louth oysters are making their way steadily up the list of most delicious delicacies, and cafés have embraced the cappuccino as a long lost beverage brother.

In short, Ireland is tasty.

But no matter how funky food gets or how innovative chefs become, a country should always save space for the classics.

In Ireland’s case, that classic is Soda Bread.

Baked is beautiful

Good Food Ireland isn’t just on the pulse of what’s tasty in Ireland – it is the pulse. When GFI recently quizzed Derek O’Brien, Principle of the National Bakery School Dublin, about the impact of baking’s new-found popularity he was pleased to say the least:

“People are waking up to the smell of real bread again – I’m thrilled and delighted.”

As O’Brien goes on to say, the mass production method for bread “was commercially developed after WWII to produce bread quickly and cheaply”.

Emer Fallon manager and chef at Louis Mulcahy's Café on the Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry, has placed freshly baked bread, cakes and tarts at the core of the café’s menu. For Emer, the baking revolution is a happy return to basics.

“I think for a while Irish people were seduced by the lushness of white yeast breads,” Emer tells us, “but there’s been a huge swing back to our own native brown soda bread.”

And why wouldn’t there be. Ireland’s best bread didn’t become a national institution for nothing. Emer again:

“When you think about it – it’s a complex carbohydrate, it’s full of fibre, and it keeps you full for much longer than a slice of processed white bread would. It’s also seriously delicious.”

Amen to that.

What the professionals might not tell you is how staggeringly simple it is to make and bake your own soda bread. Don't believe us? Try the easy peasy recipe provided to us by Good Food Ireland below.

Irish Soda Bread

Recipe for Brown Soda Bread by Tim O’Sullivan of Renvyle House, Galway

Ingredients (1 Loaf) 

• 250g (10oz) wholemeal flour

• 220g (9oz) white flour

• 1 tsp salt

• 1 tsp baking soda

• 2 tsp baking powder

• 280ml buttermilk

• 1 beaten egg

Method 

Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375° F / Gas Mark 5

Sift together the flours, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Add the buttermilk and beaten egg to the mix.

Knead on a floured surface until smooth. Shape into a round and place on a baking tray. Make a cross shape on top of the cake and place in the oven for 35-40 minutes.

Serve slightly warm with real butter...delicious. Easy to make at home, but you can't beat real Irish soda bread. And there's only one place you'll get that.