Contrary to popular belief, soda bread was not invented by the Irish. In the 18th century, the American Indians were the first recorded as using soda ash to leaven bread. Baking soda bread became popular in Ireland, because it’s cheap (baking soda is less expensive than yeast) and easy to make.
The combination of baking soda and the lactic acid in buttermilk is what makes the dough rise. Irish soda bread traditionally contains only baking soda, flour, salt and soured milk. Therefore, if your soda bread has raisins or dried fruit, it’s not technically Irish Soda Bread. It’s called Spotted Dog Bread, but often incorrectly referred to as Irish Soda Bread.
The Spotted Dog recipe below is very easy for kids to make, if adults handle the egg and oven. I think it took about 15 minutes of prep time. My almost 4-year-old was in charge of making the traditional cross on top of the bread, that is said to ward off evil spirits. It didn’t come out that well. This recipe is insane right out of the oven. I would serve this at afternoon tea with jelly and clotted cream or butter. Or, it would be delicious for breakfast.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 to 2 Tbsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. finely shredded orange peel
- 3 Tbsp. butter
- 1/3 cup currants or dried blueberries (Trader Joe's dried wild blueberries are delicious in this)
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Grease a baking sheet, set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and orange peel.
- Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
- Stir in currants or blueberries.
- Make a well in the center of the mixture.
- In a small mixing bowl combine egg and buttermilk.
- Add all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened.
- On a lightly floured surface gently knead dough to form a dough (about 4 or 5 times).
- Shape into a 7-inch round loaf.
- Transfer dough to prepared baking sheet.
- With a sharp knife, make 2 slashes across the top of the loaf to form an X, cutting all the way to the edge.
- Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until golden. Serve warm.
Consider this for St. Patrick’s Day or Easter.
See also: Shamrock Cookies Recipe