Saturday, 19 March 2011

Soda Bread

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
Saint Patrick's Day this week meant good some prices on corned beef. I was working yesterday, so put carrots, potatoes, and a chunk of corned top round in the crockpot before I left. When I got home, I added a few cabbage wedges on top and put the lid back on. While the cabbage cooked, I mixed up a batch of soda bread and got that into the oven. Dinner was ready in 30 minutes.

Soda bread is a wonderful quick bread, and not just for Saint Patrick's Day. It's easy to mix up with staples in most everyone's kitchen, ready in a little over half an hour. Aries always cuts into it as soon as it comes out of the oven, eating it with butter melting into the slice. I think it tastes even better the next day - adding the optional sugar and raisins makes for some great breakfast toast.

Soda Bread (makes 1 10" round loaf)

2½ cups flour (+ a bit more for shaping)
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
½ cup raisins (optional)

1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar)
1 egg (optional*)
2 tablespoons oil (optional*)

Preheat your oven to 350F (175C) and grease a cookie sheet. Mix dry ingredients together, and stir in the raisins if using. Mix wet ingredients together in a separate cup, then stir into dry ingredients only until all is moistened. Dump onto a floured board and shape lightly into a flattened 8-10" round loaf. Place on cookie sheet, and cut an "x", an inch deep, into the top. Bake 30 minutes, or until top is lightly browned.

The reaction of the baking soda with the acidity of the buttermilk or vinegar in the milk acts as the leavening. Over-stirring or kneading the dough vigorously will make the bread tough - mix gently only until it holds together. Cutting the cross in the top allows the heat into the center of the loaf, allowing for a more even rising. I like to use 1½ cups whole wheat + 1 cup unbleached white flour most of the time.

**Edit** One of the really great things about this internationally written blog is the international input we all get. I loved the comments from Jo, at Smallholder Wannabe so much, I wanted to add them into the body of this post. She grew up in Ireland, and gives some insight into "real" soda bread:

"Having grown up in Ireland, I was brought up on soda bread. This recipe is the rich people's soda bread - ordinary people's soda bread would not have the egg in but just use 2 cups of flour to one of buttermilk and the bicarb and cream of tartar. When I was a child living in the town, the milkman delivered bottles of buttermilk to your doorstep along with the milk. Now buttermilk costs a bomb so we always go the route of a drop of vinegar in the milk to sour it.

"I use the same recipe as the soda bread to make scones but just rub in a little bit of fat. Egg never went in scones but country folk who had hens might have put an egg in the soda bread for Sunday tea or for visitors. Even in spring, country folk would rarely use eggs in soda bread if there was half a chance that they might be able to sell them. Nobody we knew classed as wealthy farmers but just ordinary farmers/smallholders trying to earn a living off the land."

So I've marked the egg and oil "optional" too. Thanks, Jo!

I bought some swiss cheese this week, and still have some fresh sauerkraut in the cellar. I'm thinking reuben sandwiches should be on the menu tomorrow night. I'll just whip up a rye version (replace half the whole wheat flour with rye, leave out the sugar and raisins, and add some caraway seeds) of this soda bread.