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Irish Soda Bread | #SMOatHome Kitchen Science

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! We asked Annie, our programs camp manager, what she’s doing to keep her spirits up when she’s missing the spring break campers who were supposed to be at SMO this week.

She told us she’s using a chemical reaction to make Irish Soda Bread to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day! She just needs a few ingredients and an oven. When the acid of the buttermilk reacts to the baking soda, tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide leaven the bread.

Using chemical reactions to make this tasty treat is a great way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day — soda bread has been made in Ireland since at least 1836! Baking soda, or bicarbonate of soda as it was called back then, led soda bread to become an inexpensive staple of the Irish diet.

Find this 4-ingredient recipe below, and celebrate with some kitchen science!

Traditional Irish Soda Bread

  • 4 c. Flour (sifted)
  • 1 3/4 c. Buttermilk (or milk with 2 tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt


  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°
  2. If you don’t have buttermilk, you’ll need to sour some milk. Do this by adding two tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice to just under two cups of milk and allow it to sit for five minutes while you prepare the dry ingredients.
  3. Sift your flour into a large mixing bowl, then whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Form a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in 1 3/4 cup of buttermilk or milk and vinegar mixture.
  5. Stir in buttermilk with a fork or spoon to create a sticky dough. If the dough is too dry, add additional buttermilk 1 tablespoon at a time.
  6. When the dough comes together, turn dough onto a floured surface and knead lightly — about three or four times.
  7. Form a large ball.
  8. Shape the loaf into a round ball, slightly flattening the top.
  9. With a sharp knife, cut a deep cross into the top of your loaf.
  10. Place loaf on parchment-lined baking sheet.
  11. Brush with buttermilk (and melted butter if you prefer).
  12. Cook in the oven for 45 minutes.
  13. After 25-30 minutes, check if your bread is getting too brown. You’ll probably want to tent it with aluminum foil at that point.


Bread is ready when the center X looks baked through and a toothpick comes out clean. Tap the bottom of the loaf — does it sound hollow? Then it’s ready! Cover with a tea towel, moistened with sprinkles of water, and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before breaking into your loaves. Serve warm with salted butter and honey or dip it into your favorite soup or stew.