A handmade loaf of soda bread dusted with flour

Soda bread delivers the best work-to-reward ratio in baking. The alchemy of wholemeal sweetness, tart dairy and butter results in mouth-watering aromas, flavours and textures.

While it’s commonly known here as Irish soda bread, the method of using potassium carbonate (or pot ash) to leaven bread was first practised by native North Americans, before baking soda was developed.

It’s a quick bread that doesn’t rely on yeast for its rise, so simply mix and bake. The chemical reaction that occurs between the alkaline baking soda and acidic dairy components generates carbon dioxide, which gives the dough lift.

It also means this bread doesn’t keep, so it’s best eaten on the day it’s made.

The crumb in soda bread is more dense and crumbly than bread and for this a combination of strong and plain flours is best – you are not kneading the dough so there is no time for the gluten to develop as it would with a yeasted bread.

As it’s quick, it’s perfect to make for a weekend breakfast – even quicker if you measure out the ingredients the night before.

Just make sure there’s plenty of butter, jam, cheese, Marmite, smoked salmon, honey and peanut butter (smoked or otherwise) to have with it.


225g plain flour

225g wholemeal flour (optional: you can sieve this and reserve the bran for dusting the loaf)

1tsp fine sea salt

2tsp bicarb of soda

1tbsp caster sugar (treacle, honey or molasses can also be used)

30g cold unsalted butter (cut into small cubes)

180-220ml buttermilk (or milk with a squeeze of lemon, or natural yoghurt)


Preheat the oven to 190C (gas mark 5)

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl.

Rub the butter into the flour, as you would for pastry or scones, until you have coarse breadcrumb consistency.

Add two-thirds of the buttermilk and mix (adding more liquid as needed), until it all comes together smoothly with no flour left in the bowl.

Shape into a ball, place on a lined baking sheet and use a floured wooden spoon handle to press a deep cross in the top (as is traditional), dust with flour (or reserved bran) and bake for 30 mins.

Why not also have a look at my delicious plum and poppy seed olive oil cake  recipe.

© Linda Galloway 2020