• 5 cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for dusting kneading surface)
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 4 oz butter (1 stick)
• 3 tablespoons white sugar
• 1 cup raisins
• 1 egg
• 1 and 1/2 cups buttermilk
• 1/2 cup plain yogurt
Note – my grandmother never used yogurt in her bread, but I find it helps to
keep the crust soft when using American flour.
Ireland is famous for delicious soda bread made with simple ingredients. It gets
its name from the bicarbonate of soda or baking soda used as the leavening
My grandmother baked soda bread every weekday. Sunday alone was her day of rest.
By the time I came to watch her mid-morning bread-making ritual as a little
girl, her fingers were arthritic and gout-ridden. Yet as I observed the rhythm
of her toil, her hands never failed her. She lovingly formed perfect dough, her
fingers never forgetting the swirling, kneading motions she learned as a child.
I am eternally grateful to her for teaching me how to make this traditional
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Sift the flour, salt, baking soda and baking
powder into a large mixing bowl.
2. Using a pastry cutter or clean fingers rub the butter into the flour until
the mixture looks like coarse meal.
3. Add the sugar and raisins and stir to distribute throughout the flour
4. Stir the beaten egg, yogurt and buttermilk together in another bowl or
5. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and add the liquid
ingredients. Mix together with a wooden spoon to form a dough.
6. Using your hand, lightly dusted with flour, gently knead the dough into a
7. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead gently into a round
form about 9 inches in diameter. Do not over knead. This creates a tough bread.
8. Transfer to a lightly greased 9 inch baking pan. Score the top of the loaf
with a cross shape to create four distinct quarters or farls.
9. Bake in a 400 degree F oven for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350
degrees F and bake for 30 to 40 minutes more. The loaf is baked when the bottom
sounds hollow when tapped or an inserted knife comes out clean.
10. If the bread starts to brown too much early in the cooking process, cover it
with a tent of aluminium foil.
11. Remove the bread from the oven and the baking pan. Wrap the bread in a clean
dish towel and allow to cool on a wire wrack.
12. Serve sliced bread with butter.