After doing a little research, I found that what I have bought in bakeries in years prior that was advertised as "Irish Soda Bread" is not even close to the daily quick bread baked in Ireland mid-1800's through the turn of the century. Most of the Irish Soda Bread I've had commercially prepared was a yeasted bread with raisins. According to the "Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread" that is not even close and it makes sense. Soda Bread was a daily meal bread, so it wouldn't be sweet or difficult to make. Like American southern biscuits (and the recipes closely resembles that) it would be something homemakers would make quickly and easily every few days to be eaten during regular meals. So the basic REAL soda bread contains just four ingredients: flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk. Another little tidbit of interest is that not only does this bread not contain yeast, it didn't even come into existence until the commercial availability of "bicarbonate of soda" or baking soda in the mid-1800's.
Click on either of the links provided here to the Irish Soda Bread web site for more information. I found the author to be very informative and passionate about her subject, to the point of being on the entertainingly cranky side about what does NOT constitute traditional Irish soda bread. It's a fun read.
Traditional Irish Soda Bread "Brown Bread" (Whole wheat)
3 cups (12 oz) of wheat flour
1 cup (4 oz) of white flour (do not use self-rising as it already contains baking powder and salt)
14 ounces of buttermilk (pour in a bit at a time until the dough is moist)
1 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda.
2 ounces of butter if you want to deviate a bit.
[Cook's Note: If you don't have buttermilk available, a substitution called "soured milke" works just as well. In a 2 cup (16 oz) liquid measuring cup, put 2 Tbsp of white vinegar. Then fill the cup up to the 14 oz mark. Regular milk will not work in this recipe. You must have buttermilk or soured milk for the acid to be a catalyst to make the baking soda act as a leavening agent. --Glenna]
Preheat the oven to 425 F. degrees. Lightly grease and flour a cake pan. In a large bowl sieve and combine all the dry ingredients. Rub in the butter until the flour is crumbly.
Add the buttermilk to form a sticky dough. Place on floured surface and lightly knead (too much allows the gas to escape)
Shape into a round flat shape in a round cake pan and cut a cross in the top of the dough.
Cover the pan with another pan and bake for 30 minutes (this simulates the bastible pot). Remove cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
The bottom of the bread will have a hollow sound when tapped to show it is done.
Cover the bread in a tea towel and lightly sprinkle water on the cloth to keep the bread moist.
Let cool and you are ready to have a buttered slice with a nice cup of tea or coffee.