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Quick bread: no-rising-time soda bread recipe

Posted by on Friday 7 January 2011 in cooking, recipes | 17 comments

The other week, I asked about how people manage with baking when the weather is cooler – when it’s hard to maintain a yeast-friendly heat for bread to rise (especially if you’re going for a 12-18hr slow rise bread).

In the comments, Karen M said:

In my rural living days without electricity or central heating, we ate a lot of bannock and other unleavened breads in the cold times.

A smack-the-forehead moment for me. Unleavened bread, of course!

I hadn’t heard of bannock but John loves its Irish cousin, soda bread so I decided to give that a go. After trying his first slice of my first soda bread, John declared we’re never buying shop-bought bread again. We will, of course, but I liked his sentiment ;) I’ve made it a few times now and it’s been a hit each time.

Soda bread is super quick to make. Most bread relies on yeast “breathing” to create carbon dioxide bubbles but soda bread uses the chemical reaction between the alkaline bicarbonate of soda and something acidic (like vinegar, lemon juice or cream of tartar) to make the gas instead. It’s an instant reaction rather than something that has to build up over time – so no need for rising time or proving time.

Want an easy bread without soda?

Our slow rise no knead bread only takes 5 minutes to make – then just leave it overnight before baking.

And extending kneading is a no-no too – the reaction works best if it’s happening in a warm environment so it needs to be mixed, shaped and bam! straight into the oven. Super fast.

It’s a dense bread – no big yeasty air bubbles like in good yeast-based bread – but the sponge is soft and a touch sweet. Possibly because of the slight sweet milkiness or possibly because of the texture, there is something scone-like about it for me – but it’s considerably lower fat than actual scones.

Like scones though, it’s fantastic with butter and jam. Or dipped in a hearty soup.

Quick Soda Bread recipe

Yield: One slightly-more-than-1lb loaf
Time: Less than 5 mins preparation, no rising time, 30-40mins in the oven.

1lb of flour – I use a malthouse type mix with malted flakes & rye flour as well as wheat flour.
1tsp of sugar
1tsp of salt
1tsp of bicarbonate of soda
250ml (ish) of soured/acidified milk*

(* Traditional recipes call for buttermilk but soured or acidified milk serves the same purpose and is easier/cheaper to obtain – add 1tbsp of vinegar or lemon juice to the 250ml of normal milk and leave to stand for about 10mins.)

1. Preheated the oven to 200C. Dust a cookie sheet with a little spare flour (can be just plain white flour).

2. Prepare the milk by adding the lemon juice/vinegar and leaving to stand for 10 mins. (If you’re using buttermilk, lift it out of the fridge to let it warm up a little to increase the acidity.)

3. In a mixing bowl, prepare the dry ingredients – the flour, sugar, salt & bicarb of soda. Mix it together well.

4. Make a well in the middle of dry ingredients and add the soured milk/buttermilk. Quickly mix to form a soft dough.

5. Knead for 15-30 seconds then shape into a flat ish circle about 15cm/6ins in diameter and 4cm/2ins in height. Place on the dusted cookie sheet then turn it over so both sides get a light coating of dry flour. You may notice I’m not exactly light handed when it comes to dusting – use a bit less than this.

6. Using a sharp knife, cut a cross into the top of the round – only 5mm (1/4 of an inch) deep and wiggle your knife from side to side to open it up a bit (it’ll “bloom” properly while baking but that helps).

7. Immediately place in the preheated oven for 30-40 mins. It’s done when it’s a deep golden brown and (like all bread) sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

8. For a tough, crispy crust, stand on a wire cooling rack. For a softer crust, leave it on the baking tray and cover with a heavy teatowel to keep all the moisture close in.

As I said, it’s really good with butter and jam. Unlike the slow rise bread, it doesn’t last for days and days – so you have the perfect excuse to eat it as fast as you can!

If you make this, please let me know what you think!


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Petra

    I made the bread today. It worked fine, but the taste was not so good. Perhaps it was the vinegar or the bicarbonate soda. The time in which you can bake a bread is perfect.
    I think I give it another try with “karnemelk” comparable to your buttermilk I think, but in Holland it is as common as milk and just as cheap. Or I would use “wijnsteenbakpoeder” (cream of tartar with bicarbonate soda). It’s worth the experiment.

    • louisa

      Hi Petra,

      Shame about the taste. I will say that all the types of soda bread we’ve tried have had a distinct taste (almost salty, we’ve always assumed it was the soda) so it may just be that – but it is definitely worth trying different acids I guess.

      I’ve tried both lemon and vinegar and we couldn’t really taste either in the finished product – but I tend to make it with lemon juice, because I think I’d prefer that subtle taste than vinegar in case it does show through sometime. (I also tried different quantities – from 1tsp to 1tbsp. 1tsp worked well but I think the 1tbsp resulted in a slightly spongier bread, which I liked.)

      Let us know how your experiment works out!

      -louisa :)

  2. Theresa Burgess

    Hi, we have tried a similiar recipe but instead of the milk used 300ml of natural full fat yoghurt (you have to add some milk so the consistency is like single cream).
    End result – very nice !

    • louisa

      Theresa: sounds good! Do you still need to acidify the yoghurt or is it soured enough as it is?

      Deb: glad you guys liked it! I like it with just butter but John is all about the jam – a good job I made quite a bit of jam last autumn! I’ve just mentioned this to J and he said “jam just sets it off for me. It’s not a sandwich bread, it’s good with soup but it’s better just with jam. I want some now, make me some now”. So I think that means he agrees with you about the jam ;)

      Alice: I’m not sure. Next time we’ve got a carton of soya or rice milk open, I’ll give it a go and see what happens. If you hear explosions and shrieks from the Bradford direction, that’ll be me ;)

  3. Deb

    Hi Louisa,

    I made this this afternoon with the vinegar soured milk. So fast and easy to make and tasted great with butter & jam (definitely needed the jam though). Ethan loves it too! Only different thing I did was to mix it in the food processor (which I use loads more nowadays for speed with Ethan around!).



  4. Alice

    I’d love to try this, but the vegan around here eats rather more than the non-vegan. Do you think it would work with soya milk? I don’t know if it would sour in the same way.

  5. Karen M

    Soya milk can be soured the same way. It takes a little longer to “curdle”. Just hit it with the acid when you start gathering the ingredients. I like the taste of apple cider vinegar with the soy milk in recipes like this or pancakes.

  6. Jay

    I needed a small loaf so I thought I’d quarter the measures but had no measuring jug or scale. So… lemon juice in “that much” semi-skimmed (!) milk and an eight spoon guess at flour. I kept to the whole (if not generous) teaspoons of BP, sugar and salt and made a fabulous loaf; It rose beautifully and tasted good. Definately a scone relative but made for soup and/or jam.

  7. louisa

    Good to know it’s flexible & glad you liked it. It’s my favourite bread-and-jam bread now :)

  8. Mary Poppins

    Made this today using the vinegar method. It worked a treat.
    I used organic cider vinegar and there wasn’t a trace of
    Vinegariness to the bread. It was easy to prepare
    and bake. Everyone loved it. This recipe is a keeper!

  9. The fond foodie

    I made this soda bread this evening and I have to say it was out of this world. Absolutely delicious and so easy. Thank you for sharing it! It really is a keeper as Mary Poppins said!

  10. Elle

    This is my version of soda bread. I add oatmeal as it good for you, tastes wonderful and keeps hunger at bay for longer…

    Soda bread is best eaten on the same day as baking, but this shouldn’t be a problem once you have tasted it. In our house it rarely cools before being gobbled up. In the unlikely event that you have any left, it freezes well, and makes great crunchy toast.

    350 g Self raising flour
    100g medium rolled oats
    Level teaspoon salt
    Level teaspoon baking powder
    285 mls buttermilk or 285 mls of buttermilk substitute

    1. Preheat oven to 220oC , Gas mark 7.
    2. Grease a baking tray with a little oil.
    3. Sift flour, salt and baking powder together in a large mixing bowl, then stir in the oats.
    4. Stir in buttermilk and bind to a soft dough, mixture should be a little sticky, add a little more milk or water if mixture seems dry.
    5. Form into a round and place on baking tray, cut across top of loaf making four sections.
    6. Bake for 20-25 mins or until golden brown.

    This is so easy, and only takes minutes to make. I usually make 2 loaves at a time (well,… no point in putting the oven on for one is there?)and freeze the surplus for later. It’s great with soup, cold cuts, butter and jam, cheese etc., In fact if you fancy a cheesy version, add 50g of cheese to the dry ingredients before adding the buttermilk/buttermilk substitute.
    Experiment with herbs and other ingredients and make it your own.

    We’ve been eating this for 3-4 years now… my DH would leave home if I gave him shop-bought bread now! :)

    How To Make Buttermilk Substitute
    285 mls Milk
    1 tbsp Vinegar or Lemon Juice

    Put milk in a glass and add the vinegar or lemon juice to it.
    Stir the mixture and let it rest at room temperature for 15 minutes (approx).
    As soon as milk begins to curdle, stir the mixture well.

  11. Wendy

    I made this yesterday lunchtime with a really nice seeded and grainy flour and it tasted fabulous with our soup. I decided to have some more about 6 hours later, only to find that the seeds in the bread had all turned green, is this a reaction from the soured milk? The flour was in date and had no sign of any problems and I soured the milk with vinegar.

    • T. Kate


      I’m not sure, but could it be a reaction between the acid and the copper content of the seeds? The only other thing I can think of is mould growing from spores on the surface of the seeds?

  12. T. Kate

    I bought some soda bread in America and was suprised to find currents in it. A strange mixture of soda bread and scone really, but it was really delicious. The currents gave it that sweetness that soda bread needs, without having to add sugar or even jam afterwards. I was even able to eat it dry, without any butter ay all (diet!). OK, I did try one bit with butter and it was heavenly.

    So now whenever I bake soda bread, I put dried fruits in it, like currents & raisens (my favourites), but any other dried fruit should be lovely, like chopped dates and/or figs.

    The other family favourite that is quick and easy is peach cobbler (tinned peaches).

  13. Glen Cooper

    Louisa, this bread is da bomb! I made it for my Irish wife Kate on St. Pat’s this year (2013) to go with our corned beef and cabbage and she loved it, as did I. Kate’s got the cooking chops in our family, but she’s willing to help me learn, so I decided it was time for some payback. Well, your recipe was just the ticket! Can’t wait to try putting different herbs from her garden in it this spring. Thanks again!!!

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