The Fresh Loaf

A Community of Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts.

Fishy Soda Bread

BazF's picture

Fishy Soda Bread

Is it the Baking soda that causes a slight 'fishy' smell in Soda Bread and Pancakes?  I don't like it - is there a way of avoiding it or am I simply using too much soda?   Thanks to all for continued inspiration.  Barry

spsq's picture

Sorry, can't answer your question - but thanks!  I warmed up some frozen homemade pancakes in the toaster, and boy, did they give off a strange smell.  I thought they had somehow gone bad - but they tasted fine....must be the same problem as you're talking about.

clazar123's picture

I had a cake that  lumps of baking soda in it. YUK! Salty,alkaline-chemical-fishyterrible taste. Try using less and see if it helps or make sure it is well mixed in.

inlovewbread's picture

Yuck, I know exactly what you are talking about. While I don't know what causes it, I've experienced the same thing. I once made a giant batch of zucchini bread and this taste was in the bread. I think it happened because the batch was so large and the baking powder/ baking soda did not get evenly distributed throughout the dough. I made 4 loaves and the taste was more pronounced on the loaves that I froze (and ate later). Also, the taste seemed to be in "pockets" as it wasn't in every bite of the bread. Could be due to undermixing? 

I've thought about using a sourdough starter or a little osmotolerant instant yeast instead of chemical leaveners for the next batch. Could be something to try.

BazF's picture

Thanks everyone - this obviously struck a note with people!  In fact it was a batch of sourdough pancakes that prompted the post although I have noticed this problem with Irish Soda Bread in the past.

I have used Susan's recipe from Wild Yeast for pancakes lots of times and have not really been so aware of the fishy smell before.  The recipe which always works brilliantly uses 1 tsp of baking powder and 0.5 tsp of baking soda to 511g of sourdough starter. The soda was well mixed in - could I have reduced the chemicals to say 0.5 tsp of baking powder and 0.25 tsp of soda?


copyu's picture

It was in some 'Baking Powder' biscuits (scone dough). I was forced to make my own B-P, because we'd run out.

We did have a large bag of baking soda and some cream of tartar on the shelf, but the results were not pleasant.

I think I may have obeyed the instructions too said minimal mixing and handling would make the biscuits 'lighter'. I used the same amount of home-made B-P as commercial, but it was, obviously, not quite the same.

copyu's picture
copyu sifting the ingredients together WITH the flour, to make self-raising flour.

To make 'baking powder' • Place 3 teasp bicarbonate of soda and 4 teasp cream of tartar into a jar and shake them well together. Store in a cool place. Whichever combination you use, sift all the ingredients (flour and BP) together 3-4 times, to make an even mix. Store in an airtight container.

I mixed the baking powder ingredients and added that to the flour...I'd mixed that together with a fork. I also used lemon juice in the mix and naturally-soured milk. It wasn't an acidity problem—just haste. [Breakfast time! Heheheh!] Fishy taste, but edible...



Aussie Pete's picture
Aussie Pete

Hi There,

I've never cooked soda bread or used baking soda in my flour mixes so I won't comment. However, I would like to share an alternative pancake recipe to help you out. I have never weighed the ingredients for this so it's all in cup and spoon measure.

I cup self raising flour

Pinch of salt

half a tablespoon of brown sugar or honey

1 egg

Enough buttermilk to form a thick runny batter.

METHOD Place dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and add about 2/3rds of a cup of butter milk and start mixing with a spoon or wisk. Keep adding butter milk till you have a batter to your liking of consistancy. Mix well for a few minutes. Rest the mixture for about 20 minutes.

Cook pancake batter in a lightly oiled fry pan on a moderate heat. Due to the sugar or honey these pancakes will brown or caramalise very easy so keep a keen eye on them. Hope this helps.

Bon Appetite................Pete

copyu's picture

Your recipe for pancakes (which looks like it would be pretty scrummy!) includes "self-raising" flour, so you have cooked or baked with baking soda!

My problem, since I left Oz, is that SR flour does not exist in the supermarket aisles in Japan. If I really need to use it, I have to make it myself. (Same story with Malaysian curry powder, dried salad herbs, Cajun seasoning, Indian 5-spice, pickled peppers, rye breads, etc...)

I can buy 'baking powder' OK, which means I can make my own SR flour, but with so many other 'space-and-time-hogs', we just can't afford the time to make it, or the space to store it

Cheers, mate!


BTW, if you've ever made an "Aussie damper", then you've made "Irish Soda Bread". However, all of my "100% Oz" recipes for damper, pikelets and scones specify SR flour [which I can't buy, here!] Back to the old, original Irish/English/Scots recipes... c.   

copyu's picture

Irish 'griddle cakes', anyone? [A.K.A. 'potato scones' or 'potato cakes'] 

My last post got me thinking...about some great Irish recipes. If you don't LOVE potatoes, please stop reading now...You'll need:

225g / 8oz Potatoes

115g /4oz /1cup(?) Plain Flour (or all-purpose flour)

1.5ml / 1/4 teasp Baking Powder

15g / 1/2oz / 1 Tblsp Butter [PLUS extra for frying]

25-30ml / (about 1 oz) / 1-1.5 Tblsp Milk


Cut potatoes (I use un-peeled, depending on variety, but you may peel them!) into even-sized pieces (quarters, sixths or eighths, depending on size) Place into cold water, bring to boil and simmer until tender, (15 minutes or so...up to 20 min probably OK...)

Drain, then dry pieces of potato over high heat and then mash with a fork until no large lumps remain

Sift flour, salt, B-P into a bowl; rub in the butter until combined and then mix in the mashed potato with a fork. Make a 'well' in the center and pour in the milk. Bring mixture together until you have a smooth dough 

Turn out the mixture onto a floured board and knead for a few minutes; then roll it out into one or more rounds (5-6mm / 1/4" thick) that will fit your skillet/frypan and then cut the round(s) into 6 or 8 wedge-shaped pieces

Heat some butter until very hot, then fry the pieces about 4-5 minutes, turning at least once, and serve hot. Very nice with eggs and bacon or with butter and jams or jellies



Aussie Pete's picture
Aussie Pete

Hi Copyu,

I didn't realise you were an Australian overseas. However I found the following for you.

"Baking soda, otherwise known as bicarbonate of soda, sodium bicarbonate, and, less commonly, saleratus, is a chemical salt with diverse practical uses. With a chemical formula of NaHCO3, baking soda is a white powder with crystalline grains. Although it can be produced by artificial means, in its natural form, baking soda is called nahcolite, taking its name from its chemical formula.Baking soda is weakly alkaline. As such, it acts to neutralize acids and break down proteins. This quality accounts for its usefulness as a tenderizer and a leaven. Also, it is baking soda's neutralizing action on acidic scent molecules that makes it an effective deodorizer. Added to the water when doing laundry, baking soda stabilizes the pH level, enhancing the detergent's effectiveness. Baking soda may also be added to swimming pool water to balance the pH and keep the water clear".

I think after reading this, your problem may be solved. The only thing I have ever used baking soda for is making home made honey combe. Then, if too much is used it can be very bitter and unpleasant. I would be very keen for you to buy Baking Powder rather than B/Soda. Then using the same recipe you have used swap the B/Soda for baking powder. My wife tells me the same thing as well. I have used it in a glass of water to relieve intergestion. It has a gastly chemical taste but does the job. Fortunatly this has not happened for a few years. There are a lot of people who make pancakes on plain flour using baking powder. Suggestion...With the recipe I posted for you instead of SR Flour use Plain flour with Baking Powder.

Being an old Boy Scout with a Queens Scout and Baden Powell Awardee I have cooked and burnt many a  damper. But I have always used SR Flour. Old time recipes used by cooks on the drover's trail used plain flour, salt, powdered milk, (again)baking powder and water. So I think you should be swapping your B/Soda for B/Powder.

Your recipe for Irish Griddle Cakes looks good. I'm going to try them tomorrow. But note the recipe calls for Baking Powder NOT B/Soda.

Swap and let us know how you go....CYA.............Pete

copyu's picture

Thanks for going to the trouble, but I'm pretty 'up to speed' on the virtues of 'Baking Powder'. The problem is, it doesn't last that long, anywhere, but especially in a really humid climate (such as central Honshu, where I live, or tropical areas)

That's probably one of the reasons why no-one makes or sells Self-Raising flour here—it goes 'off' too quickly. It's not such a big problem in the southern states of Oz, much of the USA, NZ, or the UK, though...SR should last for months...and that just happens to be where almost ALL of the S-R flour recipes come from, too!

Self-Raising flour is just: 500g plain flour; plus about 20g Cream of Tartar; plus about 10g of Baking Soda (or some measures close to that.) In other words, it's just plain flour, with 'Baking Powder' added. (Some manufacturers add a teensy bit of salt, as well, but I don't know why)

However, in Japan, they sell a lot of high-profit 'ready-mix' [kind-of like the way they sell 'ready-mix concrete' in Oz, but in smaller quantities...Hehehe!] These mostly contain Baking Powder, sometimes also yeast. I've seen: Muffin mix; Belgian Waffle mix; Crepe mix; Sponge cake mix; Chiffon cake mix; Scone mix...even 'French Bread' mix. <Oh my Gosh!>

Average size is about 200-250 grams, average use-by dates, about 4-6 weeks. You buy it, you bake it and it works—but it's WAAAAY expensive! Baking here is really more of a 'hobby' than something you do very seriously...

Girls might make a cake for their boyfriends around Valentine's Day, or for Dad around Father's Day...Mothers make a strawberry sponge cake with whipped cream for Xmas...and so on...right through the calendar. The only 'bargain' is "Hot-cake" (pancake) mix, which you can buy in "dollar-shops" for about AUD1:30, GST included

Cheers, mate,