Friday March 20, 2009
I was in search of an Irish soda bread recipe the other day, being the week of Saint Patricks Day and all, so I did my usual search on the Internet. I came across many different variations and one website devoted to preserving traditional soda bread. They were adamant that you must only use flour, salt, baking soda and buttermilk for a traditional soda bread, but I wanted to play around and so I found a recipe to try in a book I have owned for over 10 years. “Home Baking”, authors Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, have complied baking recipes from all around the world with stories about the people and places these recipes come from. I have turned to this book quite often and have never been disappointed. Their rendition includes butter and oatmeal and it is really great.
3 cups whole-wheat flour, I used T.J’s light wheat, great flavor
3 cups pastry flour or all purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 cup oatmeal or rolled oats
or another 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chopped into small pieces and slightly soft
2 cups buttermilk, or whole milk soured with 1 tablespoon mild vinegar
Place a cast iron skillet or a baking sheet on the middle rack in the oven and preheat oven to 375 °F.
Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a big bowl. Cut in the butter with your hands by rubbing the flour with the butter until you get a sand like consistency. Make a well in the center and pour the buttermilk in. Mix well to moisten the flour thoroughly. The batter will be moist and heavy. Use wet hands to pull it together and knead on the counter a bit until smooth.
Shape it into a two inch high dome about 8 inches in diameter.
Transfer the loaf to a flour-dusted peel or the back of a baking sheet dusted with flour. Cut a 1/2- inch- deep X across the top of the bread, and transfer the bread to the preheated skillet or baking sheet.
Now if you have a 10 or 12 inch cake pan that is 2 inches high, cover the bread with it. If you don’t than you can use tin foil. ( This step is not in the book but I read about this somewhere and it made a lot of sense to me because soda bread is a very dense bread and needs a long baking time and this helps it from getting too brown.)
Bake covered for 30 minutes, remove the cover, and finish baking another 20-30 minutes. The bread will look like an over grown muffin, with a yellow-brown color. It will be firm to touch and the internal temperature should be 200 °F. It slices best 12 hours after baking.