Perhaps the unsung hero of all quick breads, soda bread is a unique free-form loaf that contains no baking powder or yeast to make it rise. Interestingly enough, the chemical reaction between the baking soda and the acidic buttermilk makes the dough rise. Since there’s no yeast involved, a freshly baked loaf of soda bread can be ready to eat in less than half of the time it takes for a yeast bread.
Although I really enjoy plain soda bread, I wanted to add a twist to this recipe: sweet onion and fresh oregano. (Onion + bread = yum!) Plus, a few grinds of black pepper brings out the peppery flavor of the oregano. These savory flavors accompany our chunky cabbage soup quite well.
An important step in making soda bread is the scoring. Using a large, sharp knife, cut almost all of the way through the dough, dividing it into quarters. For all of my baking friends, the technical name for these quarters is farls. Besides getting 4 convenient farls to break apart with your hands once it’s baked, the scoring allows the heat in the oven to get deep into the dough. As a result, the bread is more evenly baked.
A final note: let your bread cool completely before you cut into it. I know, it’s hard to do, but the bread finishes cooking through as it cools. It’s worth waiting 30-45 extra minutes to have a fully baked loaf instead of a doughy interior!
If you like this bread recipe, you might like these other Irish bread recipes!
Irish Boxty Bread: a delicious no-yeast potato bread.
Waterford Blaa Buns: a traditional Irish bun used for a chip butty sandwich.Print
Oregano onion soda bread is an easy recipe for a loaf of moist, savory Irish soda bread that’s sure to be a hit on St. Patrick’s Day. This no yeast white bread is quick to make for dinner, and uses buttermilk and baking soda to make it rise. No machine is required to mix up the dough!
- 4 1/2 cups bread flour (500g)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sweet onion, chopped
- 3 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 2/3 – 2 cups buttermilk (400 ml)
Preparing the Oregano & Onion
- Rinse the fresh oregano and pat the stems dry. Remove the leaves by running your fingers down the stem from the top to the bottom, then finely chop the leaves.
- Chop the onion.
Making & Shaping the Bread
- Preheat the oven to 400 F.
- In a large bowl, thoroughly combine the flour, salt, and baking soda.
- Stir in the oregano and onion, then make a well in the center of the mixture.
- Pour half of the buttermilk into the well and mix with your hand until the dough starts to come together.
- Gradually add more buttermilk until a sticky dough is formed and no flour remains in the bottom of the bowl. If you have extra buttermilk, save it for another bake. Don’t over mix, as this will build up the gluten structure in the dough and make a tough, doughy loaf.
- Working quickly, form the dough into a ball on a lightly floured surface, handling the dough as little as possible. Pat the top down gently and place on a large baking stone or parchment-lined cookie sheet.
- With a large, sharp knife, score the dough. Do this by cutting a cross into the dough, almost all the way through, but leaving the sections attached. This allows the heat to penetrate the center of the dough much better.
Baking the Bread
- Immediately bake at 400 F for 35-45 minutes, until the base and top are well browned and the loaf has risen completely. The loaf’s internal temperature should be about 200 F.
- Leave to cool completely on a wire rack before serving. The bread finishes cooking through the middle as it cools.
- Serve with soft butter and a delicious soup.
The four distinct quarters that make up a loaf of soda bread are called farls. If you’re hungry, you might want to eat a whole farl by yourself!