A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from February 15, 2009
Irish Soda Bread

Irish soda bread has long been a St. Patrick’s Day treat. The name “Irish soda bread” dates in print to at least 1912, but the soda bread’s “Irish” association became popular in America in the 1940s and 1950s. “Soda bread” is cited in 1837 in the British Farmer’s Magazine. In 1847, a book published in London declared about soda bread: “This bread is much eaten in America.”

Soda bread is a quick bread that uses baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) as a leavening agent instead of yeast. Buttermilk is used in the recipe, and the bread often includes raisins and nuts.


Wikipedia: Soda bread
Soda bread is a type of quick bread in which baking soda (otherwise known as sodium bicarbonate) is used for leavening rather than the more common yeast. The ingredients of traditional soda bread are flour, bread soda, salt, and buttermilk. Other ingredients can be added such as raisins, egg or various forms of nuts.

The buttermilk in the dough contains lactic acid, which reacts with the baking soda to form tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide. Soda bread can dry out quickly and is typically good for two to three days; it is best served warm or toasted. In Ireland, typically the flour is made from soft wheat; so soda bread is best made with a cake or pastry flour (made from soft wheat), which has lower levels of gluten than a bread flour.

Various forms of soda bread are popular throughout Ireland. Soda breads are made using either wholemeal or white flour, with the former known colloquially as “brown bread” in the Republic of Ireland. In Northern Ireland the wholemeal variety is known as “wheaten bread” and normally sweetened, while the term “soda bread” is restricted to the white savoury form normally served fried. The two major shapes are the loaf and the “griddle cake”, or farl in Northern Ireland. The loaf form takes a more rounded shape and has a cross cut in the top to allow the bread to expand. The griddle cake or farl, is a more flattened type of bread. It is cooked on a griddle allowing it to take a more flat shape and split into four sections.

Damper is a traditional Australian soda bread most likely brought to Australia by Irish immigrants.

History
Soda bread dates back to approximately 1840, when bicarbonate of soda was introduced to Ireland. Because the climate of Ireland hinders the growth of hard wheat (which creates a flour that rises easily with the assistance of yeast), bicarbonate of soda replaced yeast as the leavening agent.

There are several theories as to the significance of the cross in soda bread. Some believe that the cross was placed in the bread to ward off evil. It is also possible that the cross is used to help with the cooking of the bread or to serve as a guideline for even slices.

Soda bread eventually became a staple of the Irish diet. It was, and still is, used as an accompaniment to a meal.

The Soda Farl is an important part of the Ulster fry of Ulster.

Epicurious.com - Food Dictionary
Irish soda bread
This classic Irish QUICK BREAD uses baking soda (as the name implies) as its LEAVENER. It’s usually made with buttermilk and is speckled with currants and caraway seed. Before baking, a cross is slashed in the top of the loaf. The purpose of the cross, legend says, is to scare away the devil.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Main Entry: soda bread
Function: noun
Date: 1850
: a quick bread made especially with buttermilk and leavened with baking soda

(Oxford English Dictionary)
soda
Made with, or containing, sodium bicarbonate, as soda-bread...
1850 N. KINGSLEY Diary 3 Aug. (1914) 134 They raised some bread with it, which he said was the best *soda bread ever tasted.
1884 MRS. J. H. RIDDELL Berna Boyle xiii, The soda bread was rising to a satisfactory thickness.

Google Books
Journal of the Franklin Institute
new series
Vol. XX
Philadelphia, PA: Franklin Institute
1837
Pg. 71:
(Also at following—ed.)
17 July 1838, Ohio Statesman, pg. 1:
SODA BREAD.
A correspondent of the Newry Telegraph gives the following receipt for making “soda bread,” stating that “there is no bread to be had equal to it for invigorating the body, promoting digestion, strengthening the stomach and improving the state of the bowels.” he says, “put a pound and a half of goof wheaten meal into a large bowl, mix with it two teaspoonfuls of finely powdered salt, then take a large teaspoonful of super-carbonate of soda, dissolve it in half a teacupful of coldwater, and add it to the meal; rub up all intimately together, then pour into the bowl as much very sour buttermilk as will make the whole into soft dough, (it should be as soft as could possibly be handled, and the softer the better,) form it into a cake of about an inch’s thickness, and put it into a flat Dutch oven or frying-pan, with some metallic cover, such as an oven-lid or griddle; apply a moderate heat underneath for twenty minutes, then lay some clear live coal upon the lid, and keep it so for half an hour longer, (the under heat being allowed to fall off gradually for the last fiftenn minutes,) take off the cover occasionally, to see that it does not burn.” This, he concludes, when somewhat cooled and moderately buttered, is as wholesome food as ever entered man’s stomach. Wm. Clacker, Esq., of Gosford, has ordered a sample of the bread to be prepared, and a quantity of the meal to be kept for sale at the Market-hill temperance soup and coffee rooms.—Brit. Far. Mag.

Google Books
Manual of Domestic Economy
London: David Bogue
1847
Pg. 97:
SODA-BREAD.—Soda-bread, or bread made with soda instead of yeast, is very light and wholesome. To make it, mix one pound and a half of good wheat flour with two tea-spoonfuls of fine salt; then dissolve a large tea-spoonful of bicarbonate of soda in about half a teacupful of cold water, and add it to the meal; rub all together in a bowl, and add as much sour buttermilk as will make the whole into a soft dough. Form it into a cake about an inch thick, and pout it into a flat Dutch oven or stewpan, with a metal cover upon it; set it over a moderate fire for twenty minutes; then lay come clear live coal upon the lid for half an hour, the under heat being allowed to fall off for the last quarter (Pg. 98—ed.) of an hour, and occasionally see the the bread does not burn. This bread is much eaten in America.

21 June 1854, North American (Philadelphia, PA), pg. 1:
SODA BREAD AND BISCUIT—Many families are in the habit of making bread and biscuit by adding muristic acid to carbonated soda for the production of gas in dough, instead of raising it by yeast. The practice would be harmless if both the acid and soda were pure, for common salt remits from the combination of the alkali and the acid named. Muristic or hydrocholoric acid usually contains lead in solution, acquired in the process of manufacture and persons have been attacked with painful coli from eating soda bread in which the acid named was used. We use tartaric acid with soda in making light warm rolls, and find it purer and better than muristic acid. Two tea-spoonsful of tartaric acid to one of the supercarbonate of soda, raisin bread or biscuit enough for a family meal.

Google Books
The Creole Cookery Book
Edited by the Christian Woman’s Exchange of New Orleans, LA
New Orleans, T. H. Thomason, Printer
1885
Pg. 84:
SODA BREAD.
Rub into 1 lb. of flour perfectly dry a teaspoonful of tartaric acid, dry; then make a batter of milk or buttermilk, as you please; add a little saleratus or soda.

29 July 1895, Kansas City (MO) Star, pg. 5:
Soda Bread.
From the Indianapolis Journal.
Grandma—I wonder what sort of a mess you cooking school girls would make of it if you had to make your bread with soda, as I did at your age?
The Sweet Young Thing—And did you use ice cream soda in making cake?

10 February 1912, Trenton (NJ) Evening Times, pg. 3 ad:
Irish soda bread, gooseberry pie and potheen (temporate) to drink will also be for sale. 

17 June 1917, Decatur (IL) Daily Review, “Irish Soda Bread” by Jeanette Hardman, pg. 10, cols. 3-4:
Sieve four cups of flour with one-half teaspoonful of salt and one-half teaspoonful of cream of tartar. Dissolve one teaspoonful of baking soda in one and one-half cups of milk and pour into the flour. Mix together into a dough, with one-half cup of seeded raisins. Turn out onto a floured board, knead smooth, then make quickly into one or more loaves, and bake for about an hour in a moderate oven. This will make one large loaf or three smaller loaves of bread for 10 cents.

15 September 1937, Stevens Point (WI) Daily Journal, pg. 1, col. 6:
When questioned in regard to the food in Ireland, both Mr. and Mrs. Cassidy praised the Irish “tay,” but couldn’t say much for the coffee found there. Living in America had taught them what good coffee really is, they said. They like the flat Irish soda bread which they had known before coming here and which still forms an important part of the Irish bill of fare.

30 January 1938, New York (NY) Times, “Many Varieties of Bread Keep Bakers Busy” by Amy Lyon Schaeffer, pg. 132:
Irish soda bread, too, and potato bread and the newer soy bean bread of pleasant flavor.

Google Books
Modern Cereal Chemistry
By Douglas William Kent-Jones
Published by The Northern Publishing Co., Ltd.
1939
Pg. 204:
Irish Soda Bread Test Baking
In Ireland, a large proportion of flour is made into soda bread by the use of sodium bicarbonate and buttermilk.

16 March 1940, New York (NY) Herald Tribune, Clementine Paddleford column, pg. 16, col. 8:
A Broadway grocery near Columbia has fresh Irish soda bread.

20 February 1947, New York (NY) TImes, pg. 21 ad:
KNOW IRISH SODA BREAD?
UNLESS I miss my guess, you have been enjoying tender fluffy biscuits for a long time now. Of course—since Bisquick is back with 6 pre-blended ingredients to insure successful baking. But do you know that you can make Irish Soda Bread almost as qucikly and easily:

1 c. Bisquick
1/4 c. seeded raisins
1 tsp. caraway seeds
6 Tbsp. milk.
Mix all together, pat into well-greased heavy 6 in. skillet. Bake about 12 min. in hot oven. Cut in wedges; serve hot

Google Books
The Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery:
An Encyclopedic Handbook for the Homemaker Covering Foods and Beverages, Their Purchase, Preparation, and Service

By Wise (W.H.) and Company, Inc., New York
1949
Page 640
IRISH SODA BREAD. A leavened bread to which are added caraway seeds and raisins. Soda is used to neutralize the acidity of the dough

15 March 1962, Dallas (TX) Morning News, section 5, pg. 4:
Typically Irish Soda Bread
Traditional as the Shamrock


Google Books
The Irish Answer
By Tony Gray
Boston, MA: Little, Brown
1966
Pg. 313:
Irish soda bread is good, but again not fundamentally different from any other soda bread.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (0) Comments • Sunday, February 15, 2009 • Permalink