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The Science Behind Soda Bread

The Science Behind Soda Bread

Food scientist Erin Swing explains the difference between Soda and Traditional Bread.

Soda bread uses a chemical leavening, meaning it is risen by an acid-base reaction (soda refers to the base used — baking soda) and is different from traditional bread that uses sugar and yeast (single cell organisms) to produce carbon dioxide gas and ethanol (drinking alcohol). Neither one I would imagine sounds appealing to the home cook, but are critical for fluffy, good baked goods. Both work well and have their own set of pros and cons.

Chemically leavened bread does not require time to rise. The reaction starts immediately upon mixing with water and continues while baking; therefore, the dough must get baked shortly after mixing. Soda bread, however, requires immediate baking or the reaction ends and looses the lift before baking. Buttermilk contains lactic acid which reacts with the baking powder (sodium bicarbonate). Baking powder is added also for additional rise, which never hurts in gluten-free baking (notorious for being dense). Baking powder consists of a perfect balance of a protected acid of tartaric acid in form of a salt and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) that react once it hits moisture. Another by-product of this acid-base reaction is salt, thus the salt in the recipe is minimal.

Soda bread lends itself to a more hearty and wholesome bread than a traditional yeast bread. As you'll see in my recipe, I added millet for the sweet cereal flavor it imparts and kept that heartiness of the bread with the addition of brown rice flour and flaxseed meal. Flaxmeal also creates this wonderful gel, which aids in building structure in gluten-free bread as well as adding omega-3 amino acids. I tried to make this bread without the use of any gums, but to no avail.


How to bake the perfect soda bread

A wiser woman than me (Elizabeth David) once wrote that "everyone who cooks, in however limited a way, should know how to make a loaf of soda bread" – and, as with so much else in life (apart from spaghetti alle vongole), she's right. Even if you live next door to the world's best artisan bakery, or you're quite content with your supermarket sliced, there is no denying the satisfaction of a loaf that can be in the oven in less time than it takes to brew a pot of tea, and is ready to eat by the time you get out of the shower.

The first time I saw soda bread made – at Pierce and Valerie McAuliffe's cookery school in the grounds of Dunbrody Abbey, County Wexford – I was astonished that bread could be so easy. No need for proving or kneading – the simplicity of these chemically raised breads made them popular throughout the British Isles in the late 19th century, but they were particularly embraced in rural Ireland, where available equipment tended to run to a pot oven and a peat fire.

Ireland remains the heartland of soda bread today. Filling and wholesome, it pops up at almost every meal, and is so universal that the more common wholemeal version is generally known simply as brown or wheaten bread. It goes with everything from salty yellow butter to soup, smoked salmon to soft cheese, and creates very little in the way of washing-up. Seriously, can you afford not to have a recipe for soda bread in your life?


How to bake the perfect soda bread

A wiser woman than me (Elizabeth David) once wrote that "everyone who cooks, in however limited a way, should know how to make a loaf of soda bread" – and, as with so much else in life (apart from spaghetti alle vongole), she's right. Even if you live next door to the world's best artisan bakery, or you're quite content with your supermarket sliced, there is no denying the satisfaction of a loaf that can be in the oven in less time than it takes to brew a pot of tea, and is ready to eat by the time you get out of the shower.

The first time I saw soda bread made – at Pierce and Valerie McAuliffe's cookery school in the grounds of Dunbrody Abbey, County Wexford – I was astonished that bread could be so easy. No need for proving or kneading – the simplicity of these chemically raised breads made them popular throughout the British Isles in the late 19th century, but they were particularly embraced in rural Ireland, where available equipment tended to run to a pot oven and a peat fire.

Ireland remains the heartland of soda bread today. Filling and wholesome, it pops up at almost every meal, and is so universal that the more common wholemeal version is generally known simply as brown or wheaten bread. It goes with everything from salty yellow butter to soup, smoked salmon to soft cheese, and creates very little in the way of washing-up. Seriously, can you afford not to have a recipe for soda bread in your life?


How to bake the perfect soda bread

A wiser woman than me (Elizabeth David) once wrote that "everyone who cooks, in however limited a way, should know how to make a loaf of soda bread" – and, as with so much else in life (apart from spaghetti alle vongole), she's right. Even if you live next door to the world's best artisan bakery, or you're quite content with your supermarket sliced, there is no denying the satisfaction of a loaf that can be in the oven in less time than it takes to brew a pot of tea, and is ready to eat by the time you get out of the shower.

The first time I saw soda bread made – at Pierce and Valerie McAuliffe's cookery school in the grounds of Dunbrody Abbey, County Wexford – I was astonished that bread could be so easy. No need for proving or kneading – the simplicity of these chemically raised breads made them popular throughout the British Isles in the late 19th century, but they were particularly embraced in rural Ireland, where available equipment tended to run to a pot oven and a peat fire.

Ireland remains the heartland of soda bread today. Filling and wholesome, it pops up at almost every meal, and is so universal that the more common wholemeal version is generally known simply as brown or wheaten bread. It goes with everything from salty yellow butter to soup, smoked salmon to soft cheese, and creates very little in the way of washing-up. Seriously, can you afford not to have a recipe for soda bread in your life?


How to bake the perfect soda bread

A wiser woman than me (Elizabeth David) once wrote that "everyone who cooks, in however limited a way, should know how to make a loaf of soda bread" – and, as with so much else in life (apart from spaghetti alle vongole), she's right. Even if you live next door to the world's best artisan bakery, or you're quite content with your supermarket sliced, there is no denying the satisfaction of a loaf that can be in the oven in less time than it takes to brew a pot of tea, and is ready to eat by the time you get out of the shower.

The first time I saw soda bread made – at Pierce and Valerie McAuliffe's cookery school in the grounds of Dunbrody Abbey, County Wexford – I was astonished that bread could be so easy. No need for proving or kneading – the simplicity of these chemically raised breads made them popular throughout the British Isles in the late 19th century, but they were particularly embraced in rural Ireland, where available equipment tended to run to a pot oven and a peat fire.

Ireland remains the heartland of soda bread today. Filling and wholesome, it pops up at almost every meal, and is so universal that the more common wholemeal version is generally known simply as brown or wheaten bread. It goes with everything from salty yellow butter to soup, smoked salmon to soft cheese, and creates very little in the way of washing-up. Seriously, can you afford not to have a recipe for soda bread in your life?


How to bake the perfect soda bread

A wiser woman than me (Elizabeth David) once wrote that "everyone who cooks, in however limited a way, should know how to make a loaf of soda bread" – and, as with so much else in life (apart from spaghetti alle vongole), she's right. Even if you live next door to the world's best artisan bakery, or you're quite content with your supermarket sliced, there is no denying the satisfaction of a loaf that can be in the oven in less time than it takes to brew a pot of tea, and is ready to eat by the time you get out of the shower.

The first time I saw soda bread made – at Pierce and Valerie McAuliffe's cookery school in the grounds of Dunbrody Abbey, County Wexford – I was astonished that bread could be so easy. No need for proving or kneading – the simplicity of these chemically raised breads made them popular throughout the British Isles in the late 19th century, but they were particularly embraced in rural Ireland, where available equipment tended to run to a pot oven and a peat fire.

Ireland remains the heartland of soda bread today. Filling and wholesome, it pops up at almost every meal, and is so universal that the more common wholemeal version is generally known simply as brown or wheaten bread. It goes with everything from salty yellow butter to soup, smoked salmon to soft cheese, and creates very little in the way of washing-up. Seriously, can you afford not to have a recipe for soda bread in your life?


How to bake the perfect soda bread

A wiser woman than me (Elizabeth David) once wrote that "everyone who cooks, in however limited a way, should know how to make a loaf of soda bread" – and, as with so much else in life (apart from spaghetti alle vongole), she's right. Even if you live next door to the world's best artisan bakery, or you're quite content with your supermarket sliced, there is no denying the satisfaction of a loaf that can be in the oven in less time than it takes to brew a pot of tea, and is ready to eat by the time you get out of the shower.

The first time I saw soda bread made – at Pierce and Valerie McAuliffe's cookery school in the grounds of Dunbrody Abbey, County Wexford – I was astonished that bread could be so easy. No need for proving or kneading – the simplicity of these chemically raised breads made them popular throughout the British Isles in the late 19th century, but they were particularly embraced in rural Ireland, where available equipment tended to run to a pot oven and a peat fire.

Ireland remains the heartland of soda bread today. Filling and wholesome, it pops up at almost every meal, and is so universal that the more common wholemeal version is generally known simply as brown or wheaten bread. It goes with everything from salty yellow butter to soup, smoked salmon to soft cheese, and creates very little in the way of washing-up. Seriously, can you afford not to have a recipe for soda bread in your life?


How to bake the perfect soda bread

A wiser woman than me (Elizabeth David) once wrote that "everyone who cooks, in however limited a way, should know how to make a loaf of soda bread" – and, as with so much else in life (apart from spaghetti alle vongole), she's right. Even if you live next door to the world's best artisan bakery, or you're quite content with your supermarket sliced, there is no denying the satisfaction of a loaf that can be in the oven in less time than it takes to brew a pot of tea, and is ready to eat by the time you get out of the shower.

The first time I saw soda bread made – at Pierce and Valerie McAuliffe's cookery school in the grounds of Dunbrody Abbey, County Wexford – I was astonished that bread could be so easy. No need for proving or kneading – the simplicity of these chemically raised breads made them popular throughout the British Isles in the late 19th century, but they were particularly embraced in rural Ireland, where available equipment tended to run to a pot oven and a peat fire.

Ireland remains the heartland of soda bread today. Filling and wholesome, it pops up at almost every meal, and is so universal that the more common wholemeal version is generally known simply as brown or wheaten bread. It goes with everything from salty yellow butter to soup, smoked salmon to soft cheese, and creates very little in the way of washing-up. Seriously, can you afford not to have a recipe for soda bread in your life?


How to bake the perfect soda bread

A wiser woman than me (Elizabeth David) once wrote that "everyone who cooks, in however limited a way, should know how to make a loaf of soda bread" – and, as with so much else in life (apart from spaghetti alle vongole), she's right. Even if you live next door to the world's best artisan bakery, or you're quite content with your supermarket sliced, there is no denying the satisfaction of a loaf that can be in the oven in less time than it takes to brew a pot of tea, and is ready to eat by the time you get out of the shower.

The first time I saw soda bread made – at Pierce and Valerie McAuliffe's cookery school in the grounds of Dunbrody Abbey, County Wexford – I was astonished that bread could be so easy. No need for proving or kneading – the simplicity of these chemically raised breads made them popular throughout the British Isles in the late 19th century, but they were particularly embraced in rural Ireland, where available equipment tended to run to a pot oven and a peat fire.

Ireland remains the heartland of soda bread today. Filling and wholesome, it pops up at almost every meal, and is so universal that the more common wholemeal version is generally known simply as brown or wheaten bread. It goes with everything from salty yellow butter to soup, smoked salmon to soft cheese, and creates very little in the way of washing-up. Seriously, can you afford not to have a recipe for soda bread in your life?


How to bake the perfect soda bread

A wiser woman than me (Elizabeth David) once wrote that "everyone who cooks, in however limited a way, should know how to make a loaf of soda bread" – and, as with so much else in life (apart from spaghetti alle vongole), she's right. Even if you live next door to the world's best artisan bakery, or you're quite content with your supermarket sliced, there is no denying the satisfaction of a loaf that can be in the oven in less time than it takes to brew a pot of tea, and is ready to eat by the time you get out of the shower.

The first time I saw soda bread made – at Pierce and Valerie McAuliffe's cookery school in the grounds of Dunbrody Abbey, County Wexford – I was astonished that bread could be so easy. No need for proving or kneading – the simplicity of these chemically raised breads made them popular throughout the British Isles in the late 19th century, but they were particularly embraced in rural Ireland, where available equipment tended to run to a pot oven and a peat fire.

Ireland remains the heartland of soda bread today. Filling and wholesome, it pops up at almost every meal, and is so universal that the more common wholemeal version is generally known simply as brown or wheaten bread. It goes with everything from salty yellow butter to soup, smoked salmon to soft cheese, and creates very little in the way of washing-up. Seriously, can you afford not to have a recipe for soda bread in your life?


How to bake the perfect soda bread

A wiser woman than me (Elizabeth David) once wrote that "everyone who cooks, in however limited a way, should know how to make a loaf of soda bread" – and, as with so much else in life (apart from spaghetti alle vongole), she's right. Even if you live next door to the world's best artisan bakery, or you're quite content with your supermarket sliced, there is no denying the satisfaction of a loaf that can be in the oven in less time than it takes to brew a pot of tea, and is ready to eat by the time you get out of the shower.

The first time I saw soda bread made – at Pierce and Valerie McAuliffe's cookery school in the grounds of Dunbrody Abbey, County Wexford – I was astonished that bread could be so easy. No need for proving or kneading – the simplicity of these chemically raised breads made them popular throughout the British Isles in the late 19th century, but they were particularly embraced in rural Ireland, where available equipment tended to run to a pot oven and a peat fire.

Ireland remains the heartland of soda bread today. Filling and wholesome, it pops up at almost every meal, and is so universal that the more common wholemeal version is generally known simply as brown or wheaten bread. It goes with everything from salty yellow butter to soup, smoked salmon to soft cheese, and creates very little in the way of washing-up. Seriously, can you afford not to have a recipe for soda bread in your life?