Baking soda is pure Bicarbonate of Soda. It is similar to baking powder, but comes in a more basic form that requires "activation" via combining it with other ingredients such as buttermilk, vinegar or stout. The activation process releases carbon dioxide into the dough, forming bubbles that help the dough to rise.
Baking soda makes bread rise, but needs to react with something acidic within the bread in order to create the lift. Typical agents used are buttermilk, yoghurt, stout and vinegar.
To make Irish Soda Bread: Mix a teaspoonful of this bicarbonate of soda into half a kilo of wholemeal flour. Add 2 cupfuls of buttermilk and mix into a sticky dough. Form into balls and dust with flour. Bake for half an hour in a preheated oven at 200°C.
To make stout bread: As above, but replace some or all of the buttermilk with stout and a teaspoonful of sugar.
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