How to Sop Up Guinness: Cast Iron Irish Soda Bread
Believe it or not, the Irish are serious about their soda bread. I absolutely love the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread’s website. You really shouldn’t mess around with Irish soda bread wanna-be’s. It’s the real deal or nothing. Go traditional or go home. As an Irish girl and a lover of beer, shamrock tattoos, Irish music, and leprechauns, I can appreciate that. Don’t call something soda bread if it’s not soda bread!
So I think I have done my Irish roots justice in this recipe. Ok, aside from the yogurt, which was not available in Ireland in the 19th century. But, there are no raisins in this bread, nor orange zest, nuts, eggs, baking powder or yeast.
Let me explain. Irish soda bread doesn’t contain yeast. The whole point of the bicarbonate soda was that it was used in place of the yeast as a leavening agent. I even used cast iron like they did back in the day. Plus, I love any excuse to bust out my cute little cast iron skillets.
They are cute. Don’t laugh.
This is a basic, delicious, easy, pretty damn traditional Irish soda bread to sop up the beer that you will drink on St. Paddy’s Day.
Cast Iron Irish Soda Bread
1 tsp vinegar
1/2 c yogurt
1/2 c half and half or milk
2 c cake flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, mix yogurt, half and half or milk and vinegar. Let set for about 10-15 minutes or until the vinegar has “soured” the milk. If you have it on hand, you can use buttermilk for this purpose as well. You want to provide an acidic substance to activate the baking soda. Since we probably can’t go out and purchase a carton of bonny clabber (I know you’re disappointed), we will have to make it ourselves.
- Clabber (raw milk that has been left at room temperature until the bacteria has started converting the sugars to acid) was necessary to allow baked goods to rise without yeast. Since the invention of baking powder, which does not require an acid to activate, the demand for clabber declined. By the way, if we let pasteurized milk sit out, it does not produce the same effect, so don’t just leave your carton of milk on the counter.
- Sift flour, salt and baking soda into a large bowl. The reason I suggest cake flour is that softer wheats tend to grow in Ireland’s climate. Bread flour is a tougher wheat with a high protein content and if used in this instance, the resulting product will be more dense and tough. Cake flour works perfectly.
- Feel free to add 1 tsp of sugar (although it is not traditional and you might be arrested by the soda bread police). It would be a delicious addition, however, for a breakfast soda bread with butter and jam.
- Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, mixing with a wooden spoon. You want the dough to be tender, so don’t over mix. It shouldn’t be gooey and still a bit dry. Add more liquid or flour if it’s too dry or wet. Take the dough out to knead slightly only a few times to shape into your loaves.
- Oil your cast iron skillet and place the dough into the skillet. You can use mini ones as pictured or a larger one. Feel free to also place the dough onto a cookie sheet or a pizza stone. Irish soda bread was traditionally baked over a fire in a cast iron pot with a lid.
- “Dock” or “slash” the loaves with a cross so that the bread will rise how you’d like.
- Bake at 400 degrees for about 15-17 minutes. If the tops are not brown enough for your liking, turn on the broiler and brush some butter on the top of the bread. You can serve with soup, stew, or as a biscuit topped with butter and jam for breakfast. Perhaps as a midnight snack, after too many pints of Guinness on March 17th. And no one will blame you if you top it with a sunny side up egg in the morning for a breakfast of champions.