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Irish Soda Bread

1 loaf  
1 hr  
This is the traditional Irish soda bread. Any additional ingredients and it is not Irish soda bread. If it has fruit, sweetners, eggs or oil it is "cake", not soda bread. See Note-2 for more on tradition.

Flour (1)
Flour, whole wheat  
Baking Soda
  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F/230°C.
  2. Measure Flour and evenly mix in Baking Soda and Salt. Sift into a mixing bowl.
  3. Make a well in the center of the bowl of flour. Pour in most of the Buttermilk. Get your hands in there and mix, using a little more buttermilk as needed until you have a dough that's quite soft but not sticky.
  4. Wash your hands and dry them. Then with floured hands put the dough out on a floured board and knead it just a couple strokes to organize it. Form it into a round loaf about 1-1/2 inches thick Cut a cross across it about 3/8 inch deep with the cut going around the edge to the board.
  5. Set immediately on a floured baking pan, slide into the 450°F oven and bake 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 400°F/200°C for 20 to 30 minutes until done (the loaf will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom).
  6. Cool on a wire rack.
  1. Flour:   Use unbleached All Purpose flour for white flour. Do not use bread flour, all purpose flour approximates the soft wheat flour traditionally available in Ireland. This bread can also be made with all white flour, but I find the given version tastes better. Measure flour by spooning it into a 1 cup dry measure, then shave it flush with the top edge.
  2. Tradition:   The earliest use of soda ash to raise bread is thought to have been by American Indians. Refined sodium bicarbonate was commonly used in North America by the early 1800s. The earliest recorded mention of soda bread in Ireland is from 1837 but it didn't became widely popular there until the 1850s, after the potato famine. It gained popularity because it was quick and worked well with the soft wheat flour then available in Ireland.
    The preferred acids to react with the soda were sour milk and dilute hydrochloric acid, but today buttermilk and cream of tartar are used. The Irish had no ovens so this bread was most often baked under an inveted cauldron or in a heavy pot or pan, preferably with a rimmed lid so plenty of hot coals could be piled on top. See Photo Gallery for an example that's still available in North America.
  3. U.S. measure: t=teaspoon, T=Tablespoon, c=cup, qt=quart, oz=ounce, #=pound, cl=clove in=inch, ar=as required tt=to taste
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