Susan S. Yeske: Dining In - Recipe of the Week

Irish soda bread, the way it’s been for 200 years

Soda bread scones are a non traditional way of enjoying a St. Patrick’s Day favorite.

If you have your granny’s Irish soda bread recipe, and you know it’s the best there is, you might want to compete in Saturday’s Irish Soda Bread Contest at the Celtic Festival in Sellersville.

The competition will be the first for the festival, which begins at noon March 18 at the Sellersville Fire Department Picnic Grove behind the fire company on North Main Street.

The baking competition, which is open to anyone who brings bread to submit, will be judged by Ryman Maxwell, owner of the Bread Box and Bakery in Perkasie.

Irish soda bread is popular for St. Patrick’s Day, a reminder of Ireland, where it’s been made at least since the early 1800s. Cheap and easy to put together, it requires no yeast and is made using ingredients that are readily available.

According to the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread (, all recipes for traditional soda bread contain only flour, baking soda, sour milk or buttermilk, and salt. But it’s likely the competitors in Saturday’s contest will offer more interesting recipes. Over the years home bakers have added a variety of extra ingredients including whisky, candied fruit, caraway seeds, nuts, sugar, eggs and raisins.

Variations include recipes for soda bread muffins, puddings, cookies and scones.

This recipe from the Society is as basic as it gets; it’s the kind of bread the Irish made at home every few days to accompany meals or make into sandwiches. For those who like something a little sweeter, the second recipe from is for soda bread scones.

White Soda Bread
4 cups (16 ounces) of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
14 ounces of buttermilk or sour milk

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease and flour a cake pan.

In a large bowl sieve and combine all the dry ingredients. Add the buttermilk to form a sticky dough. Place on floured surface and lightly knead (too much allows the gas to escape).

Shape into a round flat shape in a round cake pan and cut a cross in the top of the dough. Cover the pan with another pan and bake for 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

The bottom of the bread will have a hollow sound when tapped to show it is done. Cover the bread in a tea towel and lightly sprinkle water on the cloth to keep the bread moist.

Irish Soda Bread Scones
2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup natural cane sugar
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1½ teaspoons cream of tartar
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons softened butter, plus 2 tablespoons melted
1¼ cups buttermilk (or mix even parts plain yogurt and whole milk as a substitute)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup raisins
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
zest of one orange, plus 2 tablespoons juice

Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl (flours, sugar, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt). Cut butter into small pieces and add to bowl. Use a pastry cutter to cut butter into flour mixture, until it resembles coarse crumbs.

Add buttermilk, egg, raisins, caraway seeds, and orange zest. Mix together until the dough just comes together. It may be crumbly and in multiple pieces.
Turn dough out onto floured surface. Knead together until dough comes together in one consistent clump. It should be lumpy, not smooth (if kneaded for too long, bread will be tough).

Divide dough into 8 pieces for large scones, or for small scones, into pieces that roll into a 2-inch ball.

Roll each scone into a ball and place on parchment covered baking sheet. Cut a cross into the top of each one and brush with melted butter and orange juice mixed together.

Bake at 400°F for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown on top.


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