Irish Soda Bread

Tom Halifax is a very nice man who lives on a tiny magic island protected by guard otters and some particularly ferocious cattle. He makes delicious bread and, as I have always avoided baking, I thought I'd better pay attention. You have to get close to see the process, as his wee house is filled with dense peat smoke from the fire. How easy he made it look and how delicious this bread was. Using no yeast, it is less bloating than other breads, although this is not the case if you immediately finish the loaf hot from the oven all slavered with a packet of butter and a pot of jam. Tom advises you make two loaves for exactly this reason.

Recipe author: Valentine Warner
What To Eat Now
Photography by Howard Sooley
Reproduced courtesy of Mitchell Beazley

Publisher's Copyrighted Material
Category:  Baking  - 


For 1 Batch(es)


  • 250 g plain white flour, not strong flour, plus a few extra handfuls
  • 250 g wholemeal flour
  • 1 teaspoon large-flaked sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 450 ml buttermilk

Irish Soda Bread Directions

  1. Preheat the oven 200C / 400F / Gas 6

    1. Sift the white flour into a large bowl and mix in the wholemeal flour, salt and bicarbonate with a whisk to lighten it. Make a well in the middle and add most of the buttermilk. Mix with a metal spoon. You need to use your judgement at this stage. What you want is a sticky but not liquid dough. If it is too dry and crumbly, add a little more milk; if on the other hand it is too wet, scatter in a little extra white flour. Most importantly of all, this mixture needs to be well combined. If in doubt, err on the side of wetness, as a dry loaf will fall apart.
  2. 2. When done, flour your hands and lift the dough on to a well-floured surface. When your hands have made a fairly even lump, lift the dough into the middle of a floured tray and flatten it into a disk about 5cm thick. Scatter more white flour over the top of the dough and cut across the loaf both ways to make a cross, about half way through.
  3. 3. Put the bread in the preheated oven for about half an hour. We like a really crusty top, so give it an extra 5-10 minutes if necessary. Cool it on a wire rack so that it does not go soggy underneath. You can break the loaf in quaters (or 'farls') along the cuts. Make sure that you taste some of the loaf with butter when new and hot. The loaf will keep well, the texture becomming firmer, after a day or so. There is no better bread for toast I know of. It also makes great croutons for soup.