Irish Soda Bread is often sold in bakeries in America during St. Patrick’s Day, but it so easy to make, you can have it all year round.
The type of Irish Soda Bread sold in the grocery store is a dense baking soda bread that is usually filled with currants or raisins. There are actually two types of Irish soda bread. One type is called a farl, and it is the earliest type of soda bread made in a skillet on top of the stove. The other bread is a cake-like bread made in an oven. Neither one of the breads had raisins added to them until much later and then the bread was called Spotted Dog. Soda bread doesn’t use yeast, which was very expensive to Irish common folk. It was made nearly every day to feed the family.
Farls are very inexpensive to make and are somewhat like modern day scones with a tangy taste of baking soda. The dough is spread in a heavy skillet and cut into four wedges.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup buttermilk
In a bowl, combine flour and salt and sift in the baking soda. Make a well in the center (make it look like volcano with a crater in the middle) and pour the buttermilk into the depressed center. Knock the flour mixture from the sides of the well starting near the top and stir it into the buttermilk in the center using a flour as if you are scrambling some eggs. Keep adding more of the flour mixture until you can’t stir with a fork anymore and use your hands forming the dough into a ball. Place the dough on a floured surface and pat it out into a circle, then turn making sure there is flour on the surface. Use a rolling pin and form into a flattened circle about ½ inch thick that will fit in your skillet. Preheat an iron skillet until it is hot. Sprinkle a little flour into the hot pan and put the farl in. Make a cut in the farl that does not go all the way through to separate it in quarters like a cross or plus sign. Cook the farl for 6 to 8 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove from skillet and serve hot or cold.
There is a legend connected to cutting the farl in fourths. It was to remind people of the cross of Christ or as an “X” to keep fairies from stealing the farl.
Modern Soda Bread with Raisins or Spotted Dog
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, salt, and soda. Using a pastry cutter, work butter into the flour mixture until it resembles a course meal then add the raisins and stir. Make a well in the mixture. In a small bowl beat the egg and add buttermilk and pour this into the indentation in the flour mixture. Start to incorporate the flour on the sides into the liquid in the center using a fork until it becomes too stiff then use your hands dusted with flour. Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead dough about a minute and form mixture into a ball. Press down to shape into a round, slightly flat loaf. Place in a greased 8 or 9 inch cake pan. Cut X shape into the top of the dough with a sharp or serrated knife. Place another greased cake pan over the top of the bread and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the top pan and bake another 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Test by thumping bread on the bottom. If it sounds hollow it is done or you can insert a toothpick into the center and if it comes out clean the bread is done. Let cool and serve.
Enjoy your farls or “Spotted Dog” at breakfast with some butter and jam. The bread is just as good accompanying lunch or dinner.