A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Soda Bread

Inspired by Riverdaze's simple, authentic recipe for soda bread, I thought I'd give it a go. Soda bread is an Irish staple food. It's been made in Ireland since 1840 when bicarbonate of soda (soda powder) was first introduced into the country. The kind of wheat produced in the wet Irish climate was not ideal for breadmaking using yeast as the leavening agent - so bicarbonate of soda was used instead. Buttermilk reacts with the baking soda to form bubbles of carbon dioxide and - hey presto - you've got a risen loaf.

There are 2 basic kinds of soda bread - the traditional round loaf, and the flatter griddle cake or farl cooked on a griddle. I tried the loaf. No messing about with lengthy kneading and waiting, and kneading again and waiting, in this recipe. It's quick and straightforward. You could make some when your friends drop in for coffee and they'd be eating it before they left. It's great warm and fresh, and fried in bacon fat, or served with jam, cheese or marmite (yeast extract) - anything sweet or salty.

Based on Riverdaze's recipe, I mixed together 4 cupfuls of strong white bread flour with a teaspoon of soda powder and a teaspoon of salt. So far, so easy. And it doesn't really get much more complicated than that! I stirred in nearly a pint of buttermilk (actually I didn't have enough buttermilk so I used half ordinary semi-skimmed milk) and formed a rough, sticky dough on a floured surface - just as you would in ordinary breadmaking. But I only kneaded it for a few minutes before it was knocked flat, shaped into a circle and placed on a greased tray in a very hot oven. After 40 minutes or so it was ready. Delicious!

At Riverdaze's suggestion, we ate some with a beef casserole I'd made earlier (diced stewing beef, onion, carrot, potato, swede, parsnip, celery, garlic, a little oil for searing and a little flour for thickening, beef stock, beef extract, some passata with basil, seasoning.) They worked pretty well together. Double delicious!

(Authentic soda bread has a cross scored on the top. Although thought by some to ward off evil spirits, the cross probably has a more practical purpose - to aid the cooking process, and to facilitate cutting the bread into 4 quarters when ready to serve.)

Read my other breadmaking post here.


The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Oh, ho! Just got in and looked at your blog…and whaddya know—yo tried the soda bread! And from the looks of it and your posting, it turned out well. It IS easy, and tasty; a bread anyone can do in short order with minimal fuss.

I'm proud of you, Solitary. Even though the goldfinches have so far snubbed you, you have made bread.

Who would'a thunk!

The Solitary Walker said...

Been making bread on and off for years, Grizzled!

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Looks scrumptious, SW! I like the idea of it with cheese and jam.

I'm doing the meal here tonight for a change - Knollshire Cauliwobbles in a secret sauce!

The Solitary Walker said...

I must say, it was pretty good, Raph. Your own menu sounds interesting to say the least!

Grizzled, the coal tits and long-tailed tits have now dropped by for short visits - but no goldfinches yet, it's true. Perhaps a few crumbs of soda bread may attract them?

I've seen somewhere that you can embellish the simple soda bread recipe with raisins, nuts or eggs - which may be worth trying when I make it next time.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Solitary, didn't mean to imply you were a neophyte bread maker; I actually figured otherwise after reading between the lines on many of your older posts.

I was just reaffirming that Irish soda bread, when done in the simple, traditional manner, is a great quick bread which no one should be intimidated to try.

Now, you can add raisins, but it's called Spotted Dog. The web site of the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread, http://www.sodabread.us/, says the added raisins version can also be called Railway Bread. Additions such as eggs, nuts, bits of sausage or bacon, hot pepper slices, sugar, fresh and candied fruit, etc., are all out there, on the web, in various versions of what's called "Irish soda bread,"—though many better qualify as cake—and none are the traditional product. Delicious, maybe, but not the real 4-ingredient bread. To my mind, it's the simplicity and rough traditionalist bread that's worth baking most of the time. Bread to go with countryman fare meals. Just my opinion.

I'm going to do a goldfinch blog in the near future just for you. Already have the shots.

It's sunny here today, 40 degrees F. The eaves are dripping as our heavy snowfall from earlier in the week melts. No goldfinches around at the moment—and no soda bread, either. Your soda bread crumbs might be the key…

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, I agree with you - the basic, rustic recipe is probably the best. Interesting you mentioned 'cake' - my loaf had a (delicious) cakey taste & texture.

Looking forward to the goldfinches...

Strangely, it's snowed this evening here (in the Trent valley lowlands) semi-properly for the 1st time all winter. Apparently it's the coldest UK winter for 13 years.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

SW - you've inspired me to put my Cauliwobblies recipe on my blog, (with a link to yours and to Grizzled's).

Now I'll have to try Soda Bread with bits of things in - I guess raisins and a long loaf would be Spotted Giraffe!

Timecheck said...

How far on the word association chain does one have to be, before one is off topic? Anyway... As I was reading posts on a backpacking forum, relating to high energy food, someone mentioned Buttery Goodness, and I thought you would enjoy the link.

Jay said...

I have made soda bread, which is supposed to be foolproof, and I have failed to make good soda bread!

Since I'm not supposed to eat yeast, I need to perfect this stuff, so I'm going to have another go and try yours!

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, I did enjoy the link. Thanks, Timecheck! (How's the French going?)

Jay, I'm sure you are being too modest! It's dead easy (but does go stale fairly quickly, as Riverdaze says). Let me know how you got on.

The Solitary Walker said...

PS You can buy buttermilk in Sainsbury and Waitrose.