Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Irish Soda Bread

This is my hundredth post and as such I wanted to include a recipe that is very close to my heart and also one that I regularly bake. In fact, brown soda bread was one of the first things that I ever made all by myself from scratch; it is unbelievably tasty and incredibly simple to make and an ideal recipe for those starting out on their cookery journey.
 
Given the fact that St. Patrick’s Day was only yesterday, I also think that is a timely recipe to give; not that I am suggesting that you should only make this bread on St. Patrick’s Day… far from it! As this is such a simple bread to make and is also exceptionally tasty, I am confident that you will want to make it time and time again.
 
Soda bread is so called because the raising agent used is bicarbonate of soda or ‘bread soda’ as it is commonly known as in Ireland. This reacts with the acidity contained in the buttermilk and results in the bread rising in the heat of the oven. As this bread doesn’t use yeast and no requires no proving, it is incredibly quick to make. Unlike yeast breads which tend to have a slightly chewy crumb, soda bread has a more cake-like consistency in the mouth. If made well, they are not dry and crumbly but are moist and moreish to eat.
 
Traditional soda breads are made of flour, bread soda, salt and buttermilk, but modern recipes often include a little butter or an egg. I don’t tend to add butter, but I do like to add an egg as this creates a moister bread, which keeps a little longer. In this regard, one of the essential things to remember about soda bread is that it is best eaten on the day that it is made, preferably still slightly warm from the oven. It is still edible for up to a couple of days, but if I have any still hanging around at this stage, I tend to slice and toast it. I find that toasting brown soda bread really highlights the almost nutty characteristics of the stone-ground wholemeal flour which is used, which I find particularly pleasing, especially if slathered in good Irish butter and some homemade orange marmalade. I also love to eat a freshly poached egg on toasted soda bread. Delicious!
 
The key to success when making soda bread is to handle the dough as little as possible after you have added the buttermilk to the dry ingredients. Just mix it enough to bring everything together – there is no need for kneading – form it into a round loaf shape, score a cross on the top using a sharp knife and pop into the preheated oven. Don’t dilly dally or let it sit around before baking in the oven; once the buttermilk is added, you must work briskly and with a light touch.

One other tip, the dough should be on the slightly sticky side… the last thing you want is a dry dough, because this will result in a very dry bread.

Ingredients:

125g plain flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
350g stoneground wholemeal flour
35g porridge oats
350ml buttermilk
1 egg, lightly whisked
 

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/Fan Oven 180C/Gas Mark 6. Lightly flour a baking sheet and set aside.
2. Sift the plain four, salt and bicarbonate into a large mixing bowl. Add the wholemeal flour and porridge oats and mix through.
3. Add the egg and then pour in most of the buttermilk (do not add it all at one time as you may not need it all) to create a soft, but not sticky dough.
4. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and form into a circle about 20-24cms in diameter and place on the prepared baking sheet. Slash a shallow cross on the top surface of the dough. Immediately place in the preheated oven and bake for 40 minutes or until well risen and a golden brown colour. Remove from the oven and once cool enough to handle, place on a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

Makes 1 loaf.