Herbed Irish Soda Bread (BBB June 2011)

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BBB: Let's Get Baking summary: recipe for Herbed Irish Soda Bread; baking with buttermilk; information about Bread Baking Babes and YeastSpotting; (click on image(s) to see larger view and more photos)

Bread Baking Babes (BBB) June 2011

Soda Bread (bbb) This month the Babes are being quite radical and not using yeast to leaven the bread. Of course, this is not the radical aspect of it. The radical aspect is that the bread is a quick bread AND easy to make.

That’s right. It’s not scary.

Well, not very scary, anyway.

I’ve heard about Soda Bread. And how dry it is. How it catches in your throat like sand.

But the other BBBabes who made this particular recipe earlier than I assured me that it’s not at all dry. So, in BBBabe fashion, I wrote the recipe down and in I plunged.

Soda Bread Diary:

10 June 5:42 pm:

Hmmm, maybe I should be smart and actually bake a Babe bread a couple of days before the deadline. I almost bought buttermilk today but then decided to be a bad babe and just use plain yoghurt instead. But it’s a little late in the day to be starting to bake, isn’t? Fiddle-dee-dee. I’ll start tomorrow. :lalala:

11 June noon:

Let’s play procrastionation…
(sung to the tune of “Allouette”)

I WAS going to make this bread this morning. But it was beautiful outside so we went for a bikeride. And now I’m realizing that it won’t go well with tonight’s dinner of pasta with sausage, chilis and broccoli. So I’ll make it tomorrow.

But I’m still planning on using yoghurt rather than buttermilk. I usually substitute yoghurt for buttermilk measure for measure. But thinking about that a little more, I thought I’d see if others added water to thin it out so it would have a more similar consistency to buttermilk. It turns out that Rose (A Little Bit of Green) has done a lot of experimentation and wrote about her findings:

Yogurt– Adding yogurt instead of buttermilk worked wonders for the chemistry and the flavor. I found a good plain yogurt with no extra additives, just milk and cultures, had the same depth of flavor as the buttermilk and contributed lots of acid. However it did create a new problem. It was way, way, way too thick! If you can turn your bowl upside down and shake it and the batter stays put you have a problem. (Ok, I didn’t actually do that… but I’m pretty sure I could have!)
50/50 Milk and Yogurt Blend – This buttermilk substitute is my winning combination. The yogurt half adds the acid and the depth of flavor. The milk half adds enough liquid to create the same consistency. Depending on the brand of yogurt you use you may have to adjust the proportions slightly. I use Nancy’s Plain Organic which is very thick.
– Rose, A Little Bit of Green, Finding a Good Buttermilk Substitute (alittlebitofgreen.com/2008/05/01/)

The Balkan style yoghurt we have is also quite thick. I’m still waffling about whether to add milk or water though. After all, buttermilk is virtually fat free and our yoghurt is 3.2% butter fat…..

12 June 2011, 8:22 am

This morning’s conversation:

he: Every single soda bread recipe I’ve looked at has an egg in it.
me: I’m NOT changing the recipe (any more than by using yoghurt instead of buttermilk)
he: Every single one! An egg!

Sigh… I’m NOT going to add an egg….

6:55 pm

We went out for a bike ride on this lovely day and on the way home stopped at the supermarket to buy buttermilk. Yup. I suddenly decided that I should use buttermilk after reading hundreds of soda bread recipes, seeing that all of them called for buttermilk.

Then I strolled through the garden snipping little pieces of our herbs that are just establishing themselves. And because the herbs are always lusher and greener on the other side of the fence, I got permission from our neighbour to steal a little of their sage and chives as well.

The dough came together beautifully. When I mixed the dough, I couldn’t stop myself from adding a little whole wheat flour so the bread wouldn’t be quite so white… I know, I know, I said I WASN’T going to change the recipe!

Of course I didn’t read that I was supposed to mix the dough with my hands and used a wooden spoon instead. (One of these days, I might learn how to read.)

Even though we WERE going to bake the bread in the barbecue, we suddenly decided to bake it in the oven. But I just couldn’t bring myself to set the dial to such a high temperature on our old oven (I’m pretty sure that it goes hotter than it says) and baked the bread starting at 400F and finishing at 350F.

Soda Bread (bbb) It took the same amount of time to bake as stated in the recipe. And it smelled fabulous!! And it tasted wonderful.

And it wasn’t dry at all!!

(Now I’m a little curious to see what will happen if there is an egg added to the batter. I gather an egg is not at all traditional in Irish Soda breads but we are just getting to the section in “A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove” by Laura Schenone that talks about alterations made to recipes by immigrants to the USA when they suddenly were in a land with so much food.)

Soda Bread (bbb) We served the bread hot out of the oven with thin slices of barbecued pork butt (western dry rub, aka #2) and asparagus that had been barbecue wokked with a little olive oil. We squeezed a little lemon juice on top. (Ha. Almost as good as Hollandaise sauce and with zero effort!) And of course, there was plenty of butter for the bread. I insisted on breaking the bread apart but T wanted to slice it. (After tasting it both ways, I admit that sliced is the way to go.) Needless to say, dinner was delicious.

Now THIS is the way I’ve always wanted my baking powder biscuits to turn out! The remarkable thing is that this bread contains no fat but is still very moist and wonderful. What wonderful bread, Ilva! Thank you!

Soda Bread (bbb) We toasted what was left over to have for breakfast the next day. It’s delicious toasted with butter, goat’s cheese and honey.

Of course, now you’ll want to make Soda Bread too. And do get some buttermilk rather than substituting with yoghurt! The aroma from the buttermilk is really wonderful. Although… now I’m a little curious to smell and taste the differnce if the bread were made with yoghurt.

Here’s this month’s BBB recipe. And here is what I did to it:

White(ish) Soda Bread with Herbs
based on ‘White Soda Bread with Herbs’ in “The Ballymaloe Bread Book” by Tim Allen

makes 1 loaf

  • 400 gm (~3 c) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 50gm (~½ c) atta (finely milled whole wheat durum flour)
  • 2gm (½ Tbsp) wheat bran ¹
  • 6gm kosher salt (1 tsp table salt)
  • 1 tsp (4.6 gm) baking soda
  • a good shot of fresh rosemary, sage and chives ²
  • 400 ml (~1¾ c) buttermilk ³
  1. oven: Turn the oven on to 400F (if you have a new oven, turn it to 450F).
  2. mixing: Put the flours and bran into a largish mixing bowl. Add the salt. Measure the baking soda into a small sieve to ensure that there are no lumps. Use the sieve to whisk the dry ingredients together.
  3. Whisk the chopped herbs into the flour mixture.
  4. Pour the buttermilk into the dry ingredients. Use a wooden spoon to quickly mix in the dry ingredients. Not much stirring will be necessary. Allen writes: “The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky.
  5. shaping: As soon as the dough has come together, turn it out onto a lightly floured board.
  6. With your (clean) hands, gently roll the dough into a ball. Then pat it gently down into a disc shape, about 5 cm (2 inches) high.
  7. Place the disc on a parchment papered cookie tray. Cut a deep cross into the middle of the disc. Prick each of the four sections with the point of the knife. (Allen writes: “according to Irish folklore this will let the fairies out!“)
  8. baking: Put the bread into the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 350F (unless you have a new oven with a correct gauge, in which case, turn the oven down to 400F) for 20-25 minutes until a skewer put into the center of the bread comes out cleanly and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  9. When the bread is done, turn the oven off and leave the bread inside the oven to stay hot as you assemble the dinner plates. Break or slice the bread and dig in!!


1.) Flours and Wheat Bran: The BBB recipe calls for plain white flour only. I am incapable of making bread with just white flour and always like to add just a little whole wheat flour – to mimic rustic milling. The whole wheat flour (atta) we have right now is very finely milled so I like to add a little actual wheat bran as well.

2.) Herbs: Allen calls for a dessert spoon each of the fresh herbs. I suspect that rosemary, sage and chives are merely suggestions and that any herb combinations would work. But I don’t think I would substitute with dried herbs. I’d sooner omit the herbs.

3.) Buttermilk: Next time, I will try making this with yoghurt instead of buttermilk. I’d be surprised if the bread didn’t turn out equally well.

Soda Bread

I was curious about Ballymaloe and Tim and Darina Allen, so did a little googling and found this lovely article on David Lebovitz’ site about Darina Allen, who with her husband Tim, runs the Ballymaloe Cookery School. More information about the school is here on the Ballymaloe Cookery School website. And after you’ve admired the gardens at the Cookery School, take a look at the equally beautiful Ballymaloe House (restaurant and hotel) run by the Allen family (I have an urge to try making Ballymaloe brown bread now…). And I suddenly neeeeeeed to go to Ireland!

Bread Baking Babes
Bread Baking Babes: Irish White Soda Bread with Herbs

Ilva (Lucullian Delights) is the host of June 2011’s Bread Baking Babes’ task. She wrote:

Boy am I happy that I chose this bread as the Bread of the Month for the Bread Baking Babes because between job sessions, headaches due to job sessions and the usual worries that are attached to having teens, I completely lost track of time […] But because of the ‘premonitial’ choice of soda bread, I can post about it now, it is so quick to make that even a forgetful Bread Baking Babe can make it in a whiff.

I often have to make soda bread because of my forgetfulness, twice a week one of my children need to bring lunch to school and sometimes I have to get up a bit earlier (not that much earlier though) to bake bread for the lunch sandwiches. I usually use a recipe from an Irish bread book (what else could I use, after all they are the masters of soda bread) called The Ballymaloe Bread Book by Tim Allen and I thought we could use another one in it with herbs in it now when summer is almost here! So here you are, I hope you will like it!

We did! We did like it!! (And it is really FAST to make!) Thank you, Ilva!

Of course, you too will want to bake along and receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site; bake Herbed Soda Bread and post about it before the 29 June 2011.

For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBB, please read:

Please take a look at the other Babes’ results:


Yeastspotting - every Friday (wordle.net image)

Each week, Susan (Wild Yeast) compiles a list of many bread-specific recipes from across the web. For complete details on how to be included in the YeastSpotting round up, please read the following:


We loved the bread so much that I made it again the next night without herbs just to taste the bread unadorned. And that time we baked it in the barbecue (remind me to post about it soon)!

Herbed Soda Bread (BBB June 2011)

edit 17 June 2011: Please see the followup to this post: Soda Bread Baked on the Barbecue

This entry was posted in baking, BBBabes, bread - yeasted & unyeasted, bread recipe, food & drink, posts with recipes on by . BBB June 2011 - ejm herbed soda bread

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8 responses to “Herbed Irish Soda Bread (BBB June 2011)

  1. Elle

    Glad you used the buttermilk…it adds moisture as well as that lovely tang. Guess some of us (me included) just have to change up almost any recipe. Yours looks like you make perfect changes…and then gilded the lily by also doing a bbq version! Way to go Babe!!

  2. MyKitchenInHalfCups

    Now I need all the BBQ details on this one Elizabeth! I mean all. In August all I’ll have will be a grill and that will be lucky. ALL the details.

    Irland … for years it’s in my dreams.

    You know I cheer the whole wheat … but I really am glad to skipped on the egg. Now I must go check out that book.

  3. ejm Post author

    We did; we did love it, Natashya! (That’s the great thing about having to make BBBabe bread – I would NEVER have made it otherwise.)

    Your wish is my command, Tanna and Astrid; the post is here: Soda Bread Baked on the Barbecue.

    I’m really glad we used buttermilk too, Elle. I’m still a little curious about what would happen if yoghurt were substituted (but not enough to do it. I love the aroma of the bread made with buttermilk too much.)

    We were very pleased, Lien, and only wished that we’d had the nerve to bake the herbed version on the barbecue as well.

    I too really would love to go to Ireland, Tanna. I’ve heard that, in spite of the rain (there’s a good reason it’s called the Emerald Isle), bicycling is wonderful in Ireland.


  4. Patricia

    I’ve made Irish Soda Bread many times with yogurt mixed half and half with milk. It’s always been excellent. I’ve made it also with buttermilk and haven’t really noticed a difference. Go ahead, make it with yogurt and milk.

    That’s handy to know, Patricia. I’ll be really interested to see if we notice a difference. -Elizabeth

  5. ilva

    I am so happy you like it, both in the oven and on the bbq!

    We love it, Ilva. It was a real revelation. I was convinced that it was going to be dry and tasteless and that we were going to have to turn it into stovetop stuffing. We just finished the last of the barbecued loaf and it was still beautifully moist, without even a hint of being stale. Thank you again for the push to try something new. -Elizabeth


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