Irish Soda Bread (1940)

pskuhlman at JUNO.COM pskuhlman at JUNO.COM
Wed Aug 8 15:29:45 UTC 2001

        Since I don't think anyone else has replied to this, I'll just give the
impressions I have.  (I have no professional connection with linguistics
or dialect.  I do, however, bake bread  occasionally.)  I grew up
calling any bread made without yeast for leavening a quick bread.  This
includes breads made with just baking soda (as Irish soda bread is)and
breads made with both baking soda and baking powder.  I must've learned
the term quick bread from my mother who was born in 1920 in central
        A check of my older cookbooks confirms that my grandmother's "The
Settlement Cookbook"  (first edition?  rebound without the page that
gives publication date, but a hand note indicates she received it in 1917
at the time of her marriage) has a section for "Quick Breads" and some
are made with just baking soda, e.g White Nut Bread, Brown Nut Bread,
Graham Bread with Buttermilk and Bran Bread.  There is no mention of
Irish soda bread -- not surprising as "The Settlement Cookbook" published
in Milwaukee has a more German influence.  There is another section for
Baking Powder Biscuits and Muffins.  Under "Quick Breads" there is a
short treatise on how baking powders work in place of yeast.  It says
baking powders are composed of soda, an acid and a little starch and that
there are three types:  1. Cream of Tartar  2. Phosphate and 3.  Alum.
        My mother's edition of "The Joy of Cooking" (1943 printing of the 1931
original edition) just uses the category "Breads" with a subsection for
"Baking Powder Breads", "Yeast Breads" and various other types of breads
such as Muffins, Biscuits, Popovers, Corn Breads as well as Pancakes and
Waffles.  There is no recipe for Irish Soda Bread.  On the first page of
the Bread section of "The Joy of Cooking) there is an interesting two
part discussion of non-yeast breads under the headings:  "Rules for
Baking Powder"  and "Soda -- Sour Milk and Sweet Milk).  It seems these
issues were more complicated as there were then different types of baking
powder;  now they are all "double acting".  It also seems that cooks then
all knew that breads made with soda (the term baking soda is not used,
just soda) needed something acidic to rise.  Therefore, Rombauer gives
directions for turning sweet milk into sour milk by adding lemon juice or
        My edition of "The Joy of Cooking" ( 1973 printing of the revised 1962
edition) lists all breads in "Yeast and Quick Breads and Coffee Cakes".
In the "Quick Breads" subsection there is a  recipe for Irish Soda Bread.
 (Buttermilk is the acidic element in Irish Soda Bread.)  Other breads
made with just baking soda are included here too, but only the Irish Soda
Bread is called soda bread.
        My own conclusion after looking through bread recipes is that buttermilk
is the acidic element in Irish Soda Bread and other quick breads made
with just baking soda.  Buttermilk is, I think, less commonly used than
when most people lived on or near farms.  In fact it is now commercially
produced by adding a culture to skimmed milk.  Originally it was the
residue from the butter churn.

Patricia  Kuhlman
pskuhlman at
Brooklyn, NY

On Sun, 5 Aug 2001 17:09:24 EDT Bapopik at AOL.COM writes:
>    The OED has "soda bread" from 1850.  However, there is no mention
> at all of "Irish soda bread."
>    Search for "soda bread" on a search engine, and you'll mostly get
> "Irish soda bread."  How many other soda breads are there?  When was
> this name first used?
>    Anyway, greetings from Columbia University, where I found this in
> Clementine Paddleford's St. Patrick's Day column in the NEW YORK
> HERALD TRIBUNE, 16 March 1940, pg. 16, col. 8:
>    A Broadway grocery near Columbia has fresh Irish soda bread.

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