How to Make Really Easy Irish Soda Bread

sodabread3.jpg
flickr/asphaltbuffet
Eat me; I'm Irish!




If you want to make something authentically Irish this St. Patrick's Day, try soda bread. It's so easy and literally mixed in minutes (no kneading!). Try this recipe. Seriously. It comes straight from Ireland's Ballymaloe Cookery School, which is run by the very Irish Allen family.

Two must-have ingredients for soda bread are baking soda and buttermilk (but it you don't have buttermilk, you can add lemon juice to your regular milk-- 2 tablespoons for every 2 1/2 cups should do the trick). Before refrigeration in Ireland, milk went sour quickly so soda bread was a good way for the resourceful Irish to use up the sour milk. You can cook soda bread just about anywhere -- a casserole dish in your oven, on a griddle when camping, near the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, wherever.

One important note: Don't be tempted to add in more baking soda than the recipe calls for because the bread will develop a greenish tinge and won't rise well.

sodabread2.jpg
R.Pereira
Left slice used baking powder -- wrong, wrong, wrong. Right slice used baking soda, right (and risen)! It's soda bread, for Pete's sake. Use your baking soda!
OK, here's what you do. You preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Then take:

3 1/2  cups stoneground whole wheat flour, 3/4 cups white flour (preferably unbleached), one teaspoon salt, one level teaspoon sieved baking soda (must be sieved!) and mix it all together in a big bowl.

Then, separately whisk one egg and add to it one teaspoon honey (or treacle if you have it), one tablespoon AND one additional teaspoon sunflower oil (or another similar neutral oil), and most of a scant 2 cups of buttermilk. Got that? You just leave a little bit of buttermilk left over  unmixed (like maybe 2 ounces) to add to the mixture if it needs it later. You'll eyeball it and feel the mixture to see.

Then, all you do is make a well in the center of your dried ingredients and pour the liquid ingredients into it. Mix well and there you have it. The mixture should be slightly sloppy and soft (here's where if it needs it, you add the rest of the buttermilk). Pour the mixture into an oiled loaf tin and put it in the oven at 400 degrees. Bake for about 60 minutes or until the bread is crusty. It should sound hollow when you tap it and feel light (as opposed to heavy). Cool the bread on a wire rack and eat the same day or make into toast the next morning.

It'll be lovely.


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