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Ballymaloe White Soda Bread

We bake this bread every day at the cookery school, and it is very quick and simple to make at home too. This is the basic recipe but there are so many sweet and savoury variations that you can try – chocolate, raisins, cinnamon, cubes of crispy bacon, cheese, herbs . . . the possibilities are endless.

The deep cross in the loaf (see step 3) is supposed to let out the fairies – so that the bread won’t be jinxed by evil spirits! In reality, of course, it’s just to allow the heat to penetrate the loaf as it’s cooking. Makes 1 loaf.


  • 450g (1lb) plain flour

  • 1 level tsp caster sugar

  • 1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 350–425ml (12–15fl oz) buttermilk or sour milk


  • 1.

    Preheat the oven to 230°C (425°F), Gas mark 8.

  • 2.

    Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in most of the buttermilk (leaving about 60ml/2fl oz in the measuring jug). Using one hand with your fingers outstretched like a claw, bring the flour and liquid together, adding more buttermilk if necessary. Do not knead the mixture or it will become heavy. The dough should be softish, but not too wet and sticky.

  • 3.

    When it comes together, turn onto a floured work surface and bring together a little more. Pat the dough into a round about 4cm (11/2in) deep and cut a deep cross in it.

  • 4.

    Place on a baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 200°C (400°F), Gas mark 6 and cook for 30 minutes more. When cooked, the loaf will sound slightly hollow when tapped on the base and be golden in colour. I often turn it upside down for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Allow to cool on a wire rack.



White soda scones: Make the dough as above but flattened into a round approximately 2.5cm (1in) deep. Cut into scones and cook for 15–20 minutes at 230°C (450°F), Gas mark 8.

White soda bread or scones with herbs: Add 2–3 tablespoons freshly chopped herbs – such as rosemary, sage, thyme, chives, parsley or lemon balm – to the dry ingredients, and make as above.

Spotted dog: Add 100g (31/2oz) sultanas, raisins or currants, or a mixture of all three, to the dry ingredients, and make as above.

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Posted by DC15Report
I watch/and have watched far tooooo many cooking shows..I believe Rachel Allen is the best by far...She is an absolute genius in the kitchen, she explains everything so simply.I love her shows and she always makes me smile with happiness.
Posted by GA5Report
Help me pls, I need some/any 'fool proof' main course irish recipes, that I can cook & impress.
Posted by LibbyReport
I thought Rachel showed us some interesting and modern alternatives using the basic soda bread recipe. The foccacia bread recipe with olives, sundried tomatoes and olive oil is a good example of an old fashioned recipe given a modern makeover. Rachel's step by step approach allows you to easily follow her instructions at home.
Posted by Sandra6Report
this is just sooo easy and very delicious, keep them coming Rachel.. with your recipes I'm beginning to believe I can cook..
Posted by Deirdre13Report
I'm looking forward to making Rachels soda bread wjth currants. I have been living in Australia for 7 years, I long for Irish brown bread. I have started to make my own using the Mayo clinic recipe. Now its time to try something new!