Soda bread and I have quite a history. It’s definitely the tastiest Irish bread, when it’s REAL Irish soda bread. And by that I mean not sweet and no raisins please! This crusty thick vegan soda bread definitely hits the spot when I’m hankering for home. My soda bread love story was a bit of a late bloomer, to tell the truth…
When I was 11, my mother decided to up sticks and move from Dublin to Louth. In Louth, we stayed at her boyfriend’s house a few miles outside Drogheda town, while a new family home was being constructed in Meath. Moving to the countryside was quite an adjustment for me. I no longer had everything within quick and easy reach. Just as every place has its pros and cons, so too did the countryside.
My least favourite “discovery’ was the fragrant seasonal arrival of manure and slurry. Workers would spread it out over the fields in every direction. There was no escaping the weirdly sweet-smelling yet pungent pong. My appetite plummeted, but eventually I became used to it.
Luckily there I also made some welcome discoveries. Until that point I had rarely eaten soda bread, but in the countryside many people had wicker woven bread baskets fixed to their houses. The bread man would then drop off a large fresh round of soda bread in these baskets in the morning. In particular my mum’s boyfriend’s mum (I know, it’s confusing, now she’s my step-grandmother if that makes it any easier) often had some delivered. I would usually try and find any excuse to go to her house around the corner, on delivery days, and sink my teeth into a few slices.
My first bite of this delivered freshly baked bread was a revelation, and quite frankly I became somewhat obsessed with it. If I had been allowed to, I would have happily eaten soda bread for breakfast lunch and dinner. After leaving Ireland to come to Spain on Erasmus, I was disappointed to find that there was no soda bread available. In fact there were very few types of bread available in Valencia back then. Sliced pan for sandwiches, “cuisine de france” baguettes, and if you were lucky, some “rustic” bread. And so, I decided to learn how to make my own bread.
For me it really was a no-brainer to opt for soda bread when it came to deciding which type of bread to bake. It’s very easy to make, requires only a few basic ingredients, and no rising time necessary. Also yeast and I quite frankly don’t get on. I just look at it and it fails to react properly (it likes to waste hours of my time by not helping my dough rise). Laughing its little yeasty laugh in my face…
Soda bread basics
Soda bread should be separated into quarters and sliced as thinly as possible (hint – it won’t be very thin!). I use it to dip into soup or for open-faced sandwiches. I was slightly nonplussed when one of my neighbours who I gave some to, told me it was “incredibly filling”. Apparently she had used two slices to make an extremely thick sandwich, crazy lady. I’ve also added in some oat bran. You can use regular oats if you prefer, but I like the extra fibre and satiety that oat bran provides.
For those of you who are in the know, I’m vegetarian not vegan. So why vegan soda bread? Well for two reasons. Number one, I can’t stand cow’s milk and I never could. I know, it makes no sense, as I still occasionally eat cheese. Number two, my son is very allergic to dairy, and soda bread is very easy to veganize.
Do let me know if you enjoyed my soda bread recipe and what you did with it, or whether you made any changes to the recipe. Did you slather it in margarine or and dip it in steaming soup, like Indian tomato soup or roast pear pepper tomato soup? Did you load it up with hummus, tomatoes, and onions? Or spread some guacamole on it? I’m getting hungry just thinking about it…
- 350 ml Sugar free soy milk
- 2 tbsp Lemon juice/Vinegar
- 300 g Wholemeal or brown flour
- 200 g Plain white flour
- 100 g Oat bran
- 1 tsp Baking Soda
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- First preheat the oven to 220C or 200C for fan assisted ovens.
- While the oven is heating up, combine the soy milk with the lemon juice or vinegar and let stand for at least five minutes in a warm place (I usually place it on the counter just above the oven or next to the hob if I've been cooking).
- Combine the flours, salt, oat bran and baking soda in a large mixing bowl.
- Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add in the soy milk, which should have curdled by now. Use a knife to mix the dry into the wet ingredients and mix as little as possible, just until everything comes together.
- Then turn out the dough onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and form a rough ball, slightly flatten, and then cut a deep cross into it with a sharp and wet knife.
- Put the soda bread in the oven and set a timer for 35 minutes. At 35 minutes remove it to cool on a wire rack while covered with a damp kitchen towel (to keep the crust from hardening too much).
- Wait until it's entirely cool before cutting as otherwise the slices will crumble too much. Can be stored in the fridge for up to a week and freezes well, just separate it into quarters before freezing.
If you don't wish to use soy milk you can use any other plant-based milk or even regular cows milk if you're not a vegan, but I find that the bread is softer when I use soy milk.
If desired you can use substitute wholemeal or brown flour for the white flour amount, but the bread will be slightly more difficult to cut and result in thicker slices.
This bread is much easier to slice the day after baking but may dry out slightly in the fridge, toasting it will bring it back to life.