A couple of years ago, a friend of mine took ill and had to go to the hospital. She was half Irish and half Dutch and was going through a bit of a tough time in hospital while doctors tried to work out what was wrong with her. I decided to go to visit her and thought I’d take her something that would remind her of her home(s). That was the first time I made Irish soda bread. I took her some fresh soda bread and Dutch Gouda amongst other things. She enjoyed it while the rest in her ward eyed the food basket with jealousy. I wish I could say the bread fixed her but unfortunately no, the doctors did 🙂
The recipe I use is this really lovely, easy and idiot-proof one from the website for the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread. I promise I’m not making the name up – scroll down to the “White Soda Bread” part for their recipe.
This recipe is so easy that I whipped it up in an hour before I left to work this morning. I was up at 7 am, the dough was ready by 7:15 am, the “closed-baking” was done by 7:45 am and the “open-baking” was done by 8:00 am and at 8:05 am, I was slathering a slice of bread with some Flora spread. Yummy, warm, soda bread!
Do try this recipe and tell me what you think at email@example.com!
4 cups of standard flour (I was short on std flour so I used 3.5 cups std flour and 0.5 cup strong flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda (hence the name “soda” bread)
1 teaspoon salt (go on, don’t skimp on it)
400 mls of buttermilk ( I didn’t have buttermilk but I substituted it for Greek yoghurt diluted with hot water)
1. Preheat your oven to 220ºC.
2. Sift the flour, salt and baking soda into a large bowl.
3. Pour the buttermilk or diluted yoghurt into the flour in little splashes. Between each splash, bring the dough together with your fingers. The splashes mean that you can stop when you can see that the dough has bound together. My test is that there should be no dry flour left in the bowl and all of it should be sort of stuck in one central mass. Usually, I’d say that there is enough liquid if there is no dough sticking to the sides of the bowl. However, in the case of the soda bread , the dough needs to be sticky so these rules don’t apply (Picture 4).
4. Turn the sticky dough over onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a maximum time of 1 minute. All you want to do is gather all the dough into a ball dry enough that you can lift it off the surface you are working on, into a bowl (Picture 5). As the main recipe says, you don’t want to beat the gas bubbles out of the dough so don’t over-knead.
5. Lightly oil an oven-proof dish, ideally with a lid. If you don’t have a lidded bowl, place an oven-proof plate or another bowl on top of the one with the dough in it. Place the ball of soda bread dough inside the bowl (Picture 6).
6. With a butter knife, score the top of the bread to make a cross. Close the bowl with its lid and bake for 30 minutes at 220ºC (Picture 6 & 7).
7. After 30 minutes, take the lid off the bowl. The bread’s top should have a light golden brown colour. Place a small bowl (ramekin size will do) with water inside the oven beside the bowl with the soda bread. Bake for another 15 minutes. The water keeps the bread moist during baking. This trick I learnt off Sylvia’s recipe for Ciabatta.
8. The finished product should be brown on top and light brown on the bottom (Pictures 8&9). When you tap the bottom of the bread, it should sound hollow. Use a butter knife to free the bread out of the bowl and allow to cool for 20-30 minutes. If you are keen like me, you will try a slice right away but beware that it won’t be very easy to cut when it is hot.
9. Slice into 1cm thick pieces and enjoy while warm with margarine, butter or my partner’s favourite – Vegemite (yuck!) – Pictures 10,11,12 and main picture above.
1. If you don’t have buttermilk in your fridge, don’t panic. In India, buttermilk usually refers to watered down yoghurt which is easy to drink. Upon reading the labels for buttermilk and yoghurt in the supermarket, their contents seem near identical to me – milk and a bunch of good bacteria.
To make “buttermilk” from yoghurt for this recipe, I used 130 gms of Greek style natural yoghurt + approximately 270 mls of water to make 400 mls of buttermilk. This volume was perfect for the dough and I used every last drop. It is the first time that I’ve made soda bread that was still moist 12 hours later. I’d call this a success.
2. The only time this recipe has failed me is when I had a crappy oven that would only apply heat from the top so beware. I love my new oven!
3. The original recipe doesn’t tell you to oil the bowl before placing the dough in it but I’d advise it as it will save you having to use elbow grease to get the stuck bits off later.
4. If you want to make it vegan, try and substitute buttermilk with soy yoghurt or rice milk and see how if you like it.
5. To make it gluten-free, substitute standard flour with gluten-free flour (eg: Doves farm). You will need to add xantham gum and oil to make up for the lack of gluten. Here’s a handy recipe for you http://www.dovesfarm.co.uk/recipes/gluten-free-soda-bread/.