Far from a uniform elegant loaf, Irish soda bread surely comes in as many versions as there are Irish cooks. No doubt the original soda breads were from humble beginnings. I call it bread for cooks who fear baking yeast breads or bread for the yeast-challenged cook.
Sour milk and soda give this bread rise while the oven brings it to a crusty-on-the-outside finish with a spongy sort of interior. Made with lovely fresh-ground Oklahoma wheat flour, Irish soda bread is worth making outside of St. Patrick's Day. It is perfect for sopping up your favorite beefy stew or making any meal special with hot homemade bread.
Practically every March, I get out a variety of Irish soda bread recipes to decide which one I am going to make on St. Patrick's Day. Over the years I have collected several dozen.
I will tell you it is easy to bake what I refer to as the Notre Dame version: It could be passed around a football field several times before anyone would know it is not a pigskin. Like most recipes when baked in a wide range of ovens, baking times vary. The soda bread baking times do seem a bit longer than necessary.
Traditionally, Irish soda bread has only the sour milk or buttermilk, flour, salt and soda: a very simple mixture barely kneaded together and baked. Think of it as a big round biscuit with a cross cut into the top.
Simple Irish Soda Bread
This four-ingredient bread is great if you want something homemade and quick. It doesn't require yeast and depends on baking soda and sour milk to give it rise. It is best served warm with a piping hot bowl of soup or stew. Once the bread is cooled, it tends to harden quickly.
1 cup whole-wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups buttermilk
1½ teaspoons baking soda
Source: Sherrel Jones