Monday, 27 March 2017

Irish Soda Farls

Here's another thing that was ridiculously simple to do but awfully good. When the (Northern) Irish talk about soda bread this is what they mean, and there are a lot of instructions out there that make it look very complicated. It isn't really though. If you can make biscuits, and you can make pancakes, then you can make these.

Essentially, these are a kind of low-fat biscuit that is baked on a griddle (skillet) rather than in the oven. I say low fat, but the Irish are sure to remedy that on the other end by applying generous quantities of butter. Me too. On the other hand, these are traditionally made with all white flour, which is not my preference. I thought they worked well with half and half. And yes, soft flour is what is needed - you will need to have a very light hand with them if you use all-purpose flour.

Mine got a little dark - they cooked quicker than I expected, and rose really well too - but unless they are actually scorched a little dark just adds to the experience. 

Makes 4 to 8 servings
20 minutes prep time

Irish Soda Farls

1 cup soft whole wheat flour
1 cup soft unbleached flour
3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
a little flour to roll out
about 1 teaspoon mild vegetable oil

Mix the flours, salt, and soda in a mixing bowl. Stir in the buttermilk to form a rough dough; when it is mostly together turn it out onto a clean counter, board, or sheet of parchment paper and knead gently to bring it all together - about 20 to 30 seconds or 12 to 20 turns.

As soon as you have a nice smooth dough, pat it out into a circle about 8" or 9" in circumference, and about 1/2" thick or slightly less. You could roll it out with a rolling pin, but it's easy enough to pat out. Sprinkle it with a little flour if it gets sticky, on both sides. Check - turn it once or twice as you pat it out.

Brush a large cast iron skillet with a very thin layer of mild vegetable oil - I dribbled a bit in then wiped it around with a piece of paper towel and discarded the excess, much like when I make crepes. Most recipes don't call for oiling the griddle or skillet, but this kind of griddle baking really sucks the finish off the cast iron and I think this helps to keep that down to a dull roar. They need to not be sitting in any more oil than just a film, though.

Heat the skillet on the stove, over medium heat. Specifically, turn it to the temperature at which you would cook pancakes or eggs, then lower it just a tad, because these are thicker and will need a little longer. Let the skillet pre-heat for a minute or two while you cut the dough into quarters. A pizza cutter is ideal for this. Gently place the farls into the pan, and cook for about 5 minutes per side. Lift them gently after a few minutes to make sure they are not browning too fast - lower the heat if they are. Turn them once they are lightly browned and risen, and cook on the other side.

Serve warm, split and buttered. If there are leftovers, they can be split and toasted.

Last year at this time I made Dutch Beef & Onion Hachée.

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