Welcome to Autumn with something comforting from Ballymaloe House – Irish Soda Bread Recipe

Mrs Myrtle Allen always said she was many years married before she triumphantly put a really good brown soda loaf on the tea table.  Beside this recipe in the original 1977 Ballymaloe Cookbook, she quipped “Of course, this brought me no praise, only a few disillusioned grunts about the pity it was that I had taken so long to learn the art!” 

With Autumn fast approaching and a noticeable chill in the air, we will soon be turning to nutritious comfort foods to support us through the long dark evenings.  A hearty bowl of vegetable soup needs nothing more than a couple of slices of freshly baked soda bread with lashings of fresh butter.  And Irish Soda bread is at it’s very best when straight out of the oven. 

Myrtle perfected this recipe through the process of succeeding in measuring her best guess (so she says in her book), she goes on to say that ‘Bread soda and kneading are two of the factors which influence the texture of the bread. There is a thin line between having enough bread soda to raise the flower and not so much that the flavour and colour are affected’, and a final top tip from The Ballymaloe Cookbook ‘No kneading at all is much better than heavy kneading’.  

Irish Soda Bread: Makes 1 loaf

450g (1lb, 31/2 cups) plain flour (or wholemeal if you want to make a brown loaf)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
300-600ml (1/2 – 1 pint, 1 1/4 – 2 1/2 cups) sour milk or buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 250deg C. Sieve the dry ingredients. Make a well in the centre.

Pour in all the milk at once. Using 1 hand, with your fingers stiff and outstretched like a claw, stir in a full circular movement from the centre to the outside of the bowl in ever increasing circles. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface. Wash and dry your hands. Tidy it up and flip over gently. Pat the dough into a round, about 4cm deep. Cut a deep cross on the loaf and prick in the four corners.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes then turn down to 200deg C for 30 minutes until cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread, when it is cooked it will sound hollow. Cool on a wire rack. Top Tip… Soda bread is best eaten on the day they are made but are still good for a day or so more.  Happy Baking!

The Joy of Six… please note that in accordance with current government Covid-19 restrictions, Ballymaloe House restaurant is limited to a maximum of 6 guests per table from a maximum of 3 households.    With the luxury of several individual dining rooms, Ballymaloe House is able to look after guests safely whilst maintaining a relaxed sense of old world hospitality and is open from Wednesday to Saturday only for the foreseeable future.

Ballymaloe HouseShanagarry, Co. Cork, Ireland · www.ballymaloe.ie · +353 (0)21 4652 531Photo Joleen Cronin 2013

Opening times are as follows: 

  • Wednesday: à la carte dinner menu from 6.30 pm to 9.30 pm (no lunch)
  • Thursday: à la carte lunch (from 12.30 pm to 2 pm) and Dinner (from 6.30 pm to 9.30 pm)
  • Friday: à la carte lunch menu (from 12.30 pm to 2 pm) and Dinner (from 6.30 pm to 9.30 pm)
  • Saturday: Table-d’hote lunch menu (from 12.30 pm until 2 pm) Dinner is an à la carte menu served from 6.30 pm to 9.30 pm.
  • Sunday: Table-d’hote lunch menu at €50 per person (from 1 pm to 3 pm). 
  • The house will be closing after lunch on Sunday until Wednesday dinner for the foreseeable future.  
  • Thursday to Saturday inclusive our Table-d’hote menu is €38 for two courses and €45 for three)  

Visit www.ballymaloe.ie for more information and sample menus or call 021 465 2531 to book. 

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