Friday, March 12, 2010

Earliest Irish Soda Bread Recipe - 1837

At this time of year the Soda Bread gets a lot of press.  Unusally articles by food experts who are more at home matching a wine with a french entree than dealing with the humble soda bread.  Some accept the fact that this was a simple peasant bread created out of necessity rather than as a side dish to a St Patrick's Day party, but others just can't accept its simplictiy.

They will write about the "controversy" of what a soda bread is and what it should be.  If your palate is used to fine wines and exotic flavored breads, "controversy" explains away the fact that you are pushing a recipe for "Traditional Soda Bread" that has more herbs and spices than a piece of  Col. Sanders Southern Fried Chicken (the COL was born in Indiana).

No, the original Soda Bread contained none of the "extras" we see today, although they are extremely good.  Just don't tell everyone that it is the same bread eaten by the Irish in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

Soda bread in Ireland had to start somewhere and, so far, it appears to start in Northern Ireland based on a refernce in the Journal of the Franklin Institute (July, 1837) to a news article in the Irish newspaper the Newry Telegraph.  The story gives the suggestion that this is a new way of making bread and, as we know now, it soon would spread to all parts of Ireland and be officially adopted as "Irish Soda Bread."

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Baking at higher altitudes

Ireland is not that far above sea level so at this time of year many people send in e-mails asking what they should do to the Irish Soda Bread recipes on if they happen to live at 7,000 ft. or various higher elevations.

I currently live in the Atlanta, GA area which is around 1,000 ft (about twice that of Tipperary) and I can't remember changing the recipes although I may be doing it subconsciously.  Except for recent snow, this isn't considered a "high altitude" city.

Baking at high altitudes such as 7,000 ft requires some trial and error to determine the exact mixture, but the rule of thumb is to increase by 3 or 4 tablespoons each cup of buttermilk and reduce the baking soda a bit. Also, it is recommended to reduce the oven temperature by about 20-25 degrees and shorten the baking time. Your milage will vary, so start with an adjusted recipe and keep careful notes so that you can repeat the recipe when you find just the right mixture for your altitude and oven.
If you have experience specifically with Irish Soda Bread, please let me know and I'll share that knowledge on the web site.

Here is a book that will tell you much more about baking at higher elevations.

Blog back on the air

For some time I was posting random blogs on the subject of Irish Soda Bread and Irish Traditions in general but when I moved service providers, it was locked down.

So, now that things have stabilized, I am beginning the blog again just before St. Patrick's Day 2010.

The Society page is at

and we are on facebook at

Once this blog site is set up, I'll be off and running again.

Ed O'Dwyer
Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread