Thursday, 14 May 2009

Irish Soda Bread

Irish soda bread was originally very plain stuff, consisting of whole grain wheat flours raised and moistened with baking soda and buttermilk. More modern versions have enriched it with some butter and an egg, and raisins and/or caraway seed have become common additions, along with a little sugar. I tend to like the improved modern but plain version, as it makes a great foil to good butter or cheese. If I add anything more it tends to be a little caraway seed; a teaspoon is plenty.

Interestingly, Irish soda bread isn't that old, as a recipe. The use of soda as a a leavening actually came from the Americas, refined from the native use of ashes as leaveners for their corn breads. Once commercially produced baking soda became available, it meant that soda bread could be made at home, on a griddle or in a Dutch oven, since very few people would have had an actual oven. (There's nothing Dutch about Dutch ovens, by the way; that is one of the many ethnic slurs against the Dutch that came into the English language during the long period of intermittant wars between the two countries in the second half of the 17th century and still exist; no longer very recognizable as slurs - just slightly odd phrases.) There's an interesting history of Irish soda bread here. I hadn't heard the term bastible before, but what he's describing is what I have always known as a Dutch oven.

1 loaf - about 20 slices
1 hour - 10 minutes prep time

Irish Soda Bread with Red Fife Wheat
1 1/2 cups soft whole wheat (pastry) flour
1 1/2 cups whole Red Fife wheat flour
3 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a baking tray, or line it with parchment paper.

Mix the 2 flours in a mixing bowl with the baking powder and salt.

Measure the buttermilk in a 2 cup measure, then add the egg and melted butter, and give it all a good stir. Mix this into the dry ingredients, until they are amalgamated and the dough forms a rough ball. Do not overmix. Lift the dough out with your hands, and form it into an even ball centred on the prepared baking tray. Cut a cross in the top, about half an inch deep.

Bake the bread for 45 to 50 minutes, until firm and lightly browned.

It's best to let it cool for several hours before you slice it, but it doesn't keep as long as yeast raised breads. It should be eaten within 48 hours.

Last year at this time we visited Meeting Place Organic Farm.


Jon Wayne Brown said...

Just wondering about the Red Fife wheat flour. Is that a variety of flour, a brand name?

Ferdzy said...

Jon, it's an unhybridized variety of wheat, what is often referred to as a landrace. It's been almost extinct for years, but it is being grown in Ontario again.

There's some good information at Wikipedia: