White Soda Bread and Scones
Soda breads are the traditional breads of our country. Making a loaf of soda bread is a simple life skill that everyone should know. A loaf or a tray of scones will be made in minutes and out of the oven before you find your car keys to drive to the shop!
Soda bread only takes a few minutes to make and 30-40 minutes to bake. It is certainly another of our ‘great convertibles’. We have a lot of fun experimenting with different variations from teeny weenies to crusty loaves and deep-pan pizza. The possibilities are endless for the hitherto humble soda bread.
Makes 1 round loaf
- 450g (1lb/3 1/2 cups approx.) plain white flour
- 1 level teaspoon (1/2 American teaspoon) bicarbonate of soda 1 level teaspoon (1/2 American teaspoon) salt
- 350-400ml (12-14fl oz/1 1/2-1 3/4 cups) sour milk or buttermilk (the quantity depends on the thickness of the milk)
Preheat the oven to 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8.
Soda bread is best cooked in a conventional oven rather than a fan or convection oven.
Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour most of the milk in at once. Using one hand with the fingers stiff and outstretched, mix in a full circular movement from the centre to the outside of the bowl, gradually drawing in the flour from the sides. Add a little more milk if necessary – shop bought buttermilk is thinner than farm-fresh, so you will need less rather than more. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. The trick with all soda breads is not to overmix the dough – mix the dough as quickly and as gently as possible, keeping it really light and airy. When it all comes together – a matter of seconds – turn it out onto a well-floured work surface.
WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS, then dust them with flour.
Tidy up the dough and flip it over gently. Pat into a round, about 4cm (1 1/2 inch) deep. Gather some of the excess flour from the worktop and sprinkle it on the centre of the baking tray. With a sharp knife, cut a deep cross on top and prick the four corners with the tip of your knife to let the fairies out, otherwise they will jinx your bread!
Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6 and bake for 30 minutes more, until cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread – if it’s fully cooked, it will sound hollow. Allow to cook on a wire rack.
A little White Soda Bread Loaf
Make the loaf as in master recipe but add 425ml (15fl oz) buttermilk and scoop it into the oiled 450g (1lb) loaf tin – 13cm x 20cm (5 inch x 8 inch). Sprinkle with oatmeal and sesame seeds or kibbled wheat seeds if you enjoy them. This is more convenient for slicing or using as sandwiches.
White Soda Scones
Make the dough as above but flatten the dough into a round or square approx. 2.5cm (1 inch) deep and stamp or cut into scones. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes at 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8 or use to cover the top of a casserole or stew.
Stamp out the dough into teeny weeny scones using a 4cm (1 1/2 inch) cutter. Bake at 230ºC/450ºF/Gas Mark 8 for 8-10 minutes, until cooked through.
Caraway Seed Soda Bread
Add 2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) caraway seeds and 1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) caster sugar to the dry ingredients.
Rosemary and Raisin Soda Bread
Add 75g (3oz) raisins and 2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) chopped fresh rosemary to the dry ingredients.
Curry and Sultana Soda Bread
Add 1-2 teaspoons curry powder and 75g (3oz) sultanas to the dry ingredients.
Seeded Tear-and-Share Soda Scones
Make the dough as above. Brush a 23cm (9 inch) round tin with olive or sunflower oil. Pat the dough into a round approx. 4cm (1 1/2 inch) deep and score into eight wedges. Put into the tin and brush the top of the scones with a selection of sesame, poppy, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Bake as above. When cooked remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack. The bread can then be torn apart and shared!
White Soda Bread with Herbs
Add 2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) of freshly chopped fresh herbs, such as rosemary, sage, thyme, chives, parsley, lemon balm or even freshly chopped seaweed or dried seaweed to the dry ingredients. Shape into a loaf or scones and bake as for soda bread.
White Soda Bread with Spring Onion, Garlic Chives or Wild Garlic Add 3-4 tablespoons (4-5 American tablespoons) chopped spring onions, garlic chives or wild garlic to the basic recipe.
Dillisk Soda Bread
Add 15-25g (1/2-1oz) chopped fresh dillisk or 1-2 tablespoons (1 1/4 – 2 1/2 American tablespoons) of dried dillisk to the dry ingredients.
Treacle Soda Bread
Whisk 2 tablespoons treacle into the buttermilk. Date syrup or pomegranate molasses are also fun to try and are delicious.
Bacon or Chorizo Soda Bread
Cut 75-110g (3-4oz) streaky bacon or chorizo into lardons 5mm (1/4 inch) thick.
Fry the bacon in a hot dry pan until almost crisp. To include the bacon and its fat in the measuring, put it into the measuring jug and pour in the buttermilk to bring it up to the 400ml (14fl oz) mark. If using chorizo, be careful to just warm it through until the fat starts to run, as it’s really easy to burn chorizo.
Multi-seed Soda Bread
Add 1 tablespoon (1 1/4 American tablespoons) sunflower seeds, 1 tablespoon (1 1/4 American tablespoons) sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon (1 1/4 American tablespoons) pumpkin seeds and 1 tablespoon (1 1/4 American tablespoons) kibbled wheat to the dry ingredients. Reserve a little of this mixture to scatter over the top.
Rosemary and Sun-blush Tomato Soda Bread
Add 1-2 tablespoons (1 1/4 – 2 1/2 American tablespoons) chopped fresh rosemary and 2 tablespoons roughly chopped sun-blush tomatoes to the flour and continue as in the basic recipe. Shape into a loaf of bread or scones.
Cheddar Cheese Soda Wedges
Brush a 23cm (9 inch) round tin with olive or sunflower oil. Pat the dough into a round approx. 4cm (1 1/2 inch) deep, then score into 6-8 wedges and brush the surface of the dough with egg wash. Scatter with 50g (2oz) grated Cheddar cheese. Bake in the oven at 200˚C/400˚F/Gas Mark 6 for 35-40 minutes.
Cheddar Cheese Soda Scones or Herb and Cheese Scones
Make the white soda bread or white soda bread with herbs dough but stamp or cut into scones. Brush the top of each scone with egg wash, then dip into 110g (4oz) grated mature Cheddar cheese or a cheese of your choice and bake as for soda scones.
Cheddar Cheese and Thyme Leaf Soda Scones
Substitute thyme leaves for the mixed herbs in the white soda bread with herbs variation.
Cheddar Cheese and Wild Garlic Soda Scones
Add 1-2 tablespoons (1 1/4 – 2 1/2 American tablespoons) finely chopped wild garlic to the dry ingredients in the Cheddar cheese soda scones variation above.
Rosemary and Olive Soda Scones
Add 1 1/2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons) chopped fresh rosemary and 2 tablespoons (2 1/2 American tablespoons) roughly chopped stoned black olives to the dry ingredients.
Olive Soda Scones
Make a white soda bread dough with or without herbs. Flatten into a 2 1/2cm (1 inch) square and cut into square scones. Brush generously with olive oil, then put a whole olive and a small sprig of rosemary on top of each scone. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and bake as above. Looks and tastes delicious.
In Ulster, the term farls can refer to soda bread or potato bread cooked on a griddle. Farls are traditionally served with an Ulster fry.
Preheat a griddle or heavy frying pan over a medium to low heat. On a floured surface, flatten the dough into a round approx. 2cm (3/4 inch) thick. Cut into four pieces. Cook on the pan for 6-10 minutes, depending on the thickness. Be careful not to let the farls burn. Serve immediately. Traditionally, this is the quickest way to make soda bread – delicious for a barbeque or picnic.