As a second generation Irish girl, nothing makes me happier than a dinner of beef, potatoes and a fresh toasty loaf of Irish Soda Bread. On St. Patrick’s Day, this dinner is absolutely essential. I’ve made many different forms of soda bread over the years, some containing caraway seeds and flax, others containing generous amounts of roasted garlic. But as my grandmother taught me, traditional soda bread should be simple; in fact, real soda bread contains nothing more than flour, butter, baking soda and salt. Why no yeast? Because of the Irish climate, hard wheat could not be grown (which rises nicely when yeast is added). To make up for this, the Irish used baking soda as a leavening agent, which is why the delicious result is called Soda Bread.
I’ve never been a fan of the versions containing bits like caraway seeds, raisins or currants (Martha Stewart’s, sadly, is one such recipe), so the two I’m including and had success with contain none of those extras. The key to soda bread is to never overwork the dough. Only mix until the ingredients are moistened and the dough ball is formed. Overworking it will destroy the bread. The first recipe is more savory, slightly more impressive and great for dinner. The second is more traditional and simple and I love it for breakfast with jam (although it works for any meal, really).