By: Jenna Gilder
A student at Trinity led an Irish bread making class that I was able to attend. In the class we made soda bread, sourdough bread and pizzas. The class was very enjoyable and through the class I was able to see the role that bread plays in the food culture of Ireland. Bread making is an important tradition in Ireland. In the 1800’s the female of the household was usually in charge of making the bread everyday. The Irish soda bread is the most popular type of bread in Southern Ireland, while brown bread is more popular in Northern Ireland. The main differences between these types of bread are that soda bread uses white flour while brown bread uses whole grain flour.
When making the soda bread in the class we used five main ingredients: baking soda, flour, eggs, salt, and buttermilk. We made the buttermilk by adding lemon juice to slightly old milk, which was a common trick to do in Irish homes when the milk was going bad. The reason the dough is able to rise is because of the reaction between the acid (the buttermilk) and the base (baking soda). After the bread was formed into its proper shape we dusted it with oats and then scored the top of the bread. The women who traditionally made Irish soda bread usually scored it with a cross before putting it in the oven because of the Irish superstition that this let out the devil. This type of bread is also called “quick bread” because it does not take very long to make. After the bread is cooked it is usually served either on its own with butter and jam, with soups, with fish, or with other dips. We enjoyed our bread with a traditional Irish vegetable soup and black pudding.