The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Soda bread advice

Kris Hughes's picture
Kris Hughes

Soda bread advice

I made the recipe below a couple of days ago and the flavour is fantastic! I don’t know whether I’d ever eaten soda bread made with wholewheat flour, but the result was very dense and heavy. Fortunately, I like heavy, dense bread and we ate it all. However, my loaf didn’t rise as completely as I would have liked, and even after 10-15 minutes additional cooking time was a little doughy in the centre, and not all that heavily browned, so perhaps I could have left it a bit longer yet. I don’t have an oven thermometer, but as far as I know my oven is a little on the hot side, if anything. The pan was on the middle shelf.

I followed the recipe and method to the letter. Here are the things I’m wondering about -

- I am at about 3,000 ft altitude, but don’t usually have to alter recipes made with soda.
- The dough was a bit on the wet and sticky side, but I was able to shape it into a loaf and it held its shape. Could it have been too wet?
- I know you can’t hang about once you combine the wet and dry ingredients. Because the dough was so sticky I perhaps spent 5 minutes or so from combining ingredients to putting in oven. Is that reasonable?
- the yogurt I used has a rather mild or bland taste. Perhaps it wasn’t acidic enough?

- re-reading the recipe, I see that I probably made my loaf thicker (and hence smaller in diameter) than intended, so maybe that was it??


I’d love any trouble shooting on offer, as I’m already hankering after another loaf, in spite of my only partial success! Thanks!


250g all purpose flour (~2 cups)
250g whole wheat flour (~2 cups)
100g oats (~1 cup)
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
25g butter, cut in pieces (~2 Tbsp)
1 c milk
1 c plain yoghurt


Preheat the oven to 400F and spray a lined baking sheet with pan spray.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then rub in the butter with your fingers.

Mix in the milk and yogurt mix by hand, being gentle as you handle it (you don’t want to over knead it). Turn it onto a floured surfaced and shape it into a flat, round loaf about 1-1/2″ thick.

Transfer to the baking sheet and score a deep cross in the top. Bake for 30-35 minutes until browned and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.

Let cool on a rack before serving.

dabrownman's picture

is a little different than yours.  No yogurt or milk -  just buttermilk 400 g.  225 g each whole and AP flour for 450 g total - this is less than 4 cups total.  Butter cut in with a pastry cutter.  Mine has 1 egg in it.  Rest is the same.  As little kneading as possible to make the dough into a boule is correct.  Scoring in a deep cross (1/2" deep) is correct too.  Mine is placed in a round cake pan trying to be 1 1/2" inches in the center though, before scoring.  Being so flat to begin with, it should bake though to the center easier.   A deep golden brown is the correct color if you don't have a thermometer.  Mine bakes 15 minutes at 425 F and then 30 minutes at 400 F or until it reaches 205 F on the inside.

The yogurt could have been weak.  The baking soda coukd have been old and weak too.  My flour weighs out to 150 g (dip and scrape) per cup and weighs 142 g when arerated with a spoon first.  Does your recipe call for cups and sifting instead of weight and sifting?

The recipe I use is from Rachel Allen and her cookery school at Ballymaloe, Ireland.  You can find it by Google.  When we stayed there on holiday in the 14th century Norman castle that is now a hotel and resturant owned by her aunt.   We fell in love with it and would wait for it to come out of the oven warm before eating.  They call this Irish Brown Soda Bread when it is half whole wheat flour. - much bettter than all white version in our book.  All white just has a little less buttermilk.   It also makes a fine scone recipe with what ever add ins you want.

Hope this helps.

Kris Hughes's picture
Kris Hughes

Thanks. I know the soda was okay, had a successful bake with it a week ago. I will use a tarter yogurt next time and make a thinner loaf...

Interested to hear what others think, and whether the dough should be so sticky as mine was...

I measured by volume, not weight, but if I was clearer on the desired consistency of the dough I can adjust.

dabrownman's picture

and 1C came up to 160 g.  My AP weighed 150g so together 4 cups would be 620 g.  Even using 2 C of milk (buttermilk would be less) at 250 g each your recipe comes up to 77% hydration.   Mine is 95 % hydration.   I know mine is sticky.  77%  hydration would seem sticky too I would guess.

These are the problem bakers have when they don't weigh their ingredients.  Very difficult to find the problems when they arise. 

Maybe others can help .

PaddyL's picture

....also has a recipe for soda bread, white or brown, in her book that doesn't have any butter in it, just buttermilk.  I've made that several times and it's delicious.

craftisan's picture

Most Brown Sodabreads here are baked in round tins  to prevent excessive flow so that Buttermilk hydration can be maximised which with  the strong whole meal flours we use can be as high as 100%. Around 500g for 6inch tin                     Bicarb levels usually at 2% on flour weight as is salt Most Bakeries here use Butter / Marg at 5% and sugar also at 5%

The dough should be very soft and moulded on a very well floured table,  -The top is dusted with a choice of either coarse flour,oats ,cracked wheat ect  Cross cut-Baked for approx 35 mins at 440-450f

Hope this helps.


dabrownman's picture

The Rachel Allen recipe I use for brown soad bread is baked in a 2" high cake tie to keep it from spreading too much. 

junklight's picture

The key thing I've found with Soda bread is that you want to mix it as *little* as possible.

When I make it I bake it as soon as it will stay in a coherent shape. And I really mean that - it looks like it's just going to be an incoherent mess when it goes in - it comes out wonderful! 

I love making a Soda bread for breakfast sometimes - me and the children all dive in tearing bits off and scoffing smothered in butter straight out of the oven

Breadandwine's picture

Hi Kris

I'd up the amount of bicarb you use. Being a vegan I don't use the buttermilk:bicarb combination, prefering to use baking powder in the proportion of 1 tsp to every 100g of flour.

For your 600g of flour and oats I'd use at least 3-4 teaspoons of bicarb - and see how it goes.

Cheers, Paul

Dú's picture

Hi people, My name is Dúnia, I´m from Brasil and I love to bake bread, specially soda bread. We have some trouble baking at home here, because our flours are 9% protein or lower, even tough this not affects soda bread that much, for other kinds this is a ploblem. Another real pain is the buttermilk, because we do not have this here, so, yogurt is the mandatory thing. I wished to know from people who have already baked with both of them , wich is the best, and if buttermilk really is that different  from yogurt when it comes to the final result. I´ve been reaeraching A LOT about soda bread, and have discovered some interest things about it, specially about the chemical properties and reactions of the ingredients, as stated above by some users. I´ve even consulted tables os pH to be aware of the acidity of the ingredients, in order to compare the data and choose the more acid ingredients for the recipe... Well, I´ll certainly post more questions about that... Bye 

craftisan's picture

Hello Dunia

Here in Ireland there are three main types of Soda bread:

1. Brown soda bread or Wheaten bread as it is called in Ulster which is made with either Wholemeal flour or a blend of Brown

and white flours ,sometimes with mixtures of coarse wheatmeals,and whiteflour.Bicarbonate  used at 1.9-2% on Flour weight is the only raising agent releasing Co2 as it responds to oven heat and reacts with Buttermilk Lactic acid.The important point to understand here ,is that in Brown soda the reaction is always incomplete leaving an alkakine baked crumb with a Ph of 8.This bread derives its characteristic flavour and colour from the reaction of the Soda with other ingredients to produce a complex range of flavour compounds.No additional acidulent other than Buttermilk should be added as it woud then not taste or look like Irish Brown Soda

2.Irish White Soda bread which is made from white flour and Soda used at a level of about 1.6%as a component of Baking powder which is used at a level of 4.7%and which as you know contains acidulent.Because a white baked crumb is desirable here the Soda is completly neutralised to give a Ph of 7 or just below.It is a misconception to think that Buttermilk Lactic acid will neutralise a meaningful amount of Soda- It needs help from the acidulent which in most Baking powders used here is Acid sodium pyrophosphate.You might ask then "What is the benefit in using Buttermilk".The main reason is the  mellowing effect that Lactic acid has on dough structure which greatly improves the crumb elasticity and mouthfeel in the baked product.Buttermilk,contrary to its name contains less than 0.5 butterfat, and here is about 8-10% milk solids the rest being water . It is just cultured skimmed milk and there is no reason  that you can not get the same result from Yogurt If you dilute with water to arrive at the same solids content

Sultana Soda bread- This is a very popular bread in Ireland and is an enriched form of White Soda/with Butter and sugar added at  18-24% each on flour weight and sultanas at 50% .

All the product described above are made with very soft doughs and baked in a 6 in round tin dusted with flour and marked with a tradional cross cut.

Re Flour strength- Most Oven Soda breads here are now made with Bread making strength flours around 12%as their extra buttermilk absorbency makes for a softer product with better crumb strength.However a very passable product could be made with weaker flour.

All of this is from an Ulster perspective ,but perhaps some of it may help


Dú's picture

Thank you for thi hints,  craftisan. Indeed, some of the information was known to me since I´ve researched so much about soda bread, but as I mentioned, it is not always possoble to reproduce te recipes and thecniques as they should be, because here in Brazil the final consumers (domestic consumers) are in a little disavantage, since we have many products adulterated or with poor quality, the best ingredients go to exportation, and some of them are naturally poor, that goes for flour, for example. But still, I´ve not lost my passion for baking, even if it is for an amateur baking,  and I´ll keep trying a little more. I´ll try to post some photos of my soda breads, so that you can have some idea of the results I´ve been getting so far.