Irish Soda Bread
For those of you who haven't met me or seen me on ABC's 'Cooks Corner', I have a very British accent, so it always comes as a surprise when I tell people that both my parents were born and raised in Southern Ireland and only moved to London, England as adults.
My mother never made yeast raised bread only soda bread. In London, it was possible to buy buttermilk at the local dairy for making the bread to give it the authentic flavor. I certainly don't recommend using either dried or liquid buttermilk that is available locally in NH as you will be disappointed in the finished product. Nowadays I mix together sour cream and milk in equal quantities. The sour cream gives the acid needed to help the baking soda rise.
On my aunt's farm in Ireland we would make this bread fresh every day. We would have to feed all the men breakfast after the early milking and they would eat fresh bacon, eggs, sausages, black and white pudding and mushrooms picked fresh from the river field (the cow pasture) while the milking was going on. I recognize those mushrooms as the portobella mushrooms available here.
We would mix the soda bread fresh for lunch, bake it in biscuit (cookie) tin lids in the Aga stove and serve any leftovers to the farm dogs with table scraps and milk. While we made the bread fresh every day, I find it still tastes good nuked in the microwave the next day or toasted in toaster oven or bagel toaster and served with butter and marmalade for breakfast. For special occasions an egg would be added and perhaps some raisins but never caraway seeds.
Ingredients1 c all purpose flour
1 c brown flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 - 2 tsp baking powder (one tsp gives a dense texture for bread, 2 tsp gives fluffier texture for scones.)
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 c sourcream (lite is fine)
3/4 c milk mixed together with the sour cream (it will be richer with whole milk product)
MethodPreheat oven to 400°
1. Combine milk and sour cream.
2. Put flours into a mixing bowl and add baking powder, baking soda, sugar and stir together.
3. Rub in butter until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
4. Add 3/4 of the sour cream mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until soft, moist dough forms. Add more liquid if needed.
This dough should not be dry and hard, and it may be necessary to add some more milk or water to get a soft dough to form. This is dependent on the age of the flour, the humidity in the air and whether you are using a mix of brown and white flour or 100 % white flour since brown flour will absorb more water than white flour. King Arthur flour will need more liquid than ordinary all purpose
5. Turn dough onto a lightly floured board and knead gently adding more flour slowly if necessary until dough is smooth. This should only take a few kneads by hand.
6. Place dough on floured baking sheet or stone and gently pat out to a 7-8" circle, 1/2 -3/4" thick, (any thinner and you will end up with shoe leather bread) cut a cross shape in top of circle of dough or cut into 8 wedges.
7. Bake wedges in preheated oven for about 20 - 25 minutes until bread is well risen, hard on top to the touch and sounds hollow if you tap the bottom of the wedge. Bake for 30-40 minutes for complete loaf.
Remove from oven and serve with fresh butter. Wrap whole loaf in clean dish cloth so steam is trapped and softens crust.
Remember that it is very difficult to reproduce the tastes of these original dishes since they were prepared at a time when all food was extremely fresh. We had our own butter and milk, the flour came from a local mill, and your meat and vegetables were from your own land, particularly in the country.
You must use sour cream and milk mixed and not just milk, and be very careful measuring the baking soda as too much can make the soda bread bitter and metallic tasting.
VariationsNot traditional but very good!
2 c all purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
2 tbsp butter
2-3 tbsp sugar
1/3 c of semi sweet chocolate chips or 1/3 c raisins and grated rind of orange or lemon if desired
Form into 7-8" circle and cut into 8 wedges like apple pie, place on baking sheet and bake in 400° oven for 20-25 minutes until wedges are well risen, golden brown and sound hollow underneath when tapped.
Oonagh Williams, proprietor of Royal Temptations, has a Culinary Arts degree, offers a Personal Chef service, teaches a variety of classes in International Cooking, and makes regular appearances on WMUR ABC Channel 9's Cooks' Corner. You can contact Oonagh at 603-424-6412.