Traditional Irish Soda Bread

Baking bread always fascinated me. The smell of fresh bread wafting through the house is what I want to wake up to early day! There’s just something very comforting about freshly baked goodies. Before I got my oven I tried baking bread in my pressure cooker once. It turned out fine, but didn’t really taste like bread. I scoured many websites for a quick fix to baking bread, but alas! Then there is the matter of the yeast. Baking with yeast scares me, which is why when I came across this soda bread recipe  by Gemma Stafford that requires no yeast, I said I have to try this! I was inspired and put my own spin on it.

Another thing about this recipe is that it reminded me of my Godmother. She was Irish. A gentle, loving soul who I miss everyday. She was one of the most giving souls I have ever met and a single day doesn’t go by that I don’t miss her. She was a paraplegic, but god bless the woman she organised charities, parties and what not. I wish she was still with us. She loved food – didn’t matter what cuisine. This simple bread is my way of saying thanks. 🙂



2 cups whole wheat flour

2 cups plain flour

1/4 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 tablespoons cold butter, chopped

1 egg

1-1/4 cup buttermilk*

1 tablespoons oats (optional)

zest of an orange (optional)

Note: You can’t use milk, you need buttermilk for this recipe. To make buttermilk, just take your milk in a jug, pour in 2 teaspoons vinegar or lemon juice, stir and set aside to thicken. Since there is no leavening agent, the acids in the buttermilk react with the baking soda that make the bread rise. This is a very dense bread. Don’t expect the texture of white bread, this is more brown bread with a beautiful crisp, crackly crust.

Soda bread by itself is quite bland, which is where the orange zest adds a zing to it. You can also add in raisins or dried cranberries to the mix for extra texture and flavour.



  1. Take a large bowl and I mean the largest you can find. Sift in your flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. Whisk it so everything is combined.
  2. In a jug add in your buttermilk and egg and whisk together. Set aside.
  3. Zest your orange into the flour mixture directly.
  4. Add in the cold butter and just rub the cubes between your fingers so the whole mixture starts to look like a crumble topping. Sort of grainy.
  5. Make a well in the middle and add in the buttermilk and egg mixture. I like to add in the liquid little at a time so that I can control the dough. Reserve a little bit of the buttermilk mixture to brush on your bread.
  6. Don’t knead the bread, just fold it in so that it just comes together. You don’t need a perfectly smooth dough ball like you get with a chapati mix, you just need a ball of dough that’s just managing to hold it’s own!
  7. Shape the dough into a ball and in Gemma’s words bless the bread or score the bread by making an X on the top. You then have to release the fairies so they don’t curse your bread or just stab the four sides of the bread for even baking.
  8. Sprinkle oats on the top of the bread and bake at 190 degree celsius for 30-40 minutes.
  9. Allow to cool for a bit and serve warm!



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