One of the first visual memories I have from Ireland is of my mother-in-law making Brown Soda Bread at her kitchen table. Her thin fingers worked the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda together, sifting them by touch and breaking any lumps that might spoil the finished bread. Then she’d pour in the buttermilk and mix until a loose dough was formed. After a few minutes of kneading, it was made into circle shape, a cross was cut into the top and it went into the oven to bake. An hour later a golden brown loaf would be relieved from the oven and left to cool on a wire rack. The smell was only gorgeous.
My mother-in-law raised twelve children on soda bread. Stories are still told by my husband and his brothers of the times they went out to cut turf with their father and how they often had cheese sambos (Irish slang for “sandwiches”) on brown bread and a flask of tea for their lunch. If you’ve ever spent time in the Irish countryside you know there could be no better meal…there’s just something so wholesome, so delicious about it.
Today I make brown soda bread for our family. Experimenting with recipes, ingredients and loaf shapes is becoming an obsession of mine. If we’re in America the recipe is always different than when we are in Ireland because the flour differs from country to country. Overall, however, I stick with the traditionalist view of using only five simple ingredients: brown and white flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and buttermilk.* We’ve yet to go out turf cutting (someday….) but when we go hill walking, cheese sambos and tea are what we take along. In the future I hope our girls will have fond Brown Soda Bread Memories too.
* I promise to post Brown Soda Bread recipes for baking in America and Ireland later this summer!
** Brown Soda Bread recipe for those of you using “grams and ounces” here.
*** Brown Soda Bread recipe for those of you using “cups” measures here.