Friday, March 16, 2007

Bread and Better Bread (Irish Soda Bread)

Most of the loaf made and marketed as Irish Soda Bread are nothing like the one I ate when in Ireland (visiting family).

They are dense, sweet and cake like, with eggs and raisins.

A good Irish Soda bread, is like a good Southern Biscut, simple, light, and quick to make, with nothing more than flour, butter, milk and leavening.
But even the best baker faces an impossible task trying to make a bread in the US that taste the same as one made in Ireland.

First, most US Flour is Hard Red Wheat--a variety not usually grown or used in Europe--and while all wheat is wheat, (just as all apples are apples) there is a different flavor and texture to the flour. Next is the milk... again, milk is milk.. only it isn't. The same goes double for the butter! Milk and milk fat is very influenced by what the cows feed on, as well as the species of cow.

Still it is possible to make a good soda bread.
The first recipe is one that is the more common --white bread with raisins.

The second recipe, Brown Bread is a more common bread in Ireland. Simple ingredients, no frills, the taste, fresh and light.

Irish Soda Bread

2 cups of flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsps of baking powder
1 stick solid shortening (or margarine or butter)
2/3 cup of cold buttermilk
1 egg
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup of raisins or currents or 2 tablespoons of caraway seed
Preheat oven to 375°

Mix baking soda into flour, cut in butter till it is looks like coarse meal
Toss in raisins /caraway seed, and sugar, mix in.
Beat in egg and add milk
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well.
Roll in ball, and place on large, well greased baking sheet.
Cut cross into top
Bake 35 to 40 minutes or till done

Better Irish Soda Bread--Brown Bread
1 ½ cups of whole wheat flour
½ cup of rolled oats (or 1/3 cup of oat flour)
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 stick cold butter (salted butter) cut into chunks
*1 cup of cold buttermilk
1 tablespoon of honey (warm honey to help it dissolve it the cold milk)
(Plus some extra oats for baking sheet)

Preheat oven to 475°
Take rolled oats, and process them in a blender (¼ of a cup at time) or in a food processor to make oat flour.
Mix dry ingredients, (flours, soda) then cut in butter till it butter is size of small peas
(do not over cut in butter!--lumpy butter bits make light, flavorful bread)
Add liquid ingredients, and mix just until till flour is moistened.
(*Whole wheat flour is ‘dryer’ than white flour, and can absorb, usually, more liquid
Start with a scant cup of buttermilk and add more if needed-up to about 1 cup.
Knead just enough to get dough hold together.
Roll in ball, and place on *large baking sheet.
*Either grease the sheet, of better, place some crumbled rolled oat on sheet. (crumble them with your hand.
Cut cross into top
Put in oven and immediately reduce heat to 375°
Bake 35 to 40 minutes or till done
Best served warm, with butter and or honey.
Recipe can be doubled to make 2 loaves. (and it usually is!)

Meanwhile here is a wee lad, unhappy with being forced to model a tam 0'shanter.
(that I border on being the worst photographer, doesn't help the matter!)


Sonya said...

Happy St. Patrick's Day Helen!

sulu-design said...

We're celebrating St. Patty's Day a little late in my classroom (our March assembly program is on the 29th, so we'll party then), and I'm going to make one of these for my kiddos. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the Better Bread recipe! I made it to accompany our corned beef meal last night, and the leftovers were relished with cream cheese and ginger spread for breakfast this morning.