January 2, 2014

Soda Bread

Although I bake regularly, I never used to bake soda bread. It wasn't that familiar to me and I suspected that it must be complicated.  I was wrong.  

Soda bread is not at all complicated. It won't even require a trip to grocery store if you have a jar of buttermilk lurking in your fridge (which I always do now that I have realized how easy it is to culture buttermilk). The taste is quite familiar, somewhat like buttermilk biscuits, with less fat. 

I like this recipe because I always have these four ingredients handy and it produces a hearty, tasty quick bread that works well as a sturdy side for savory soups or as support for sweets like jam.

Basic Soda Bread

2 cups flour
pinch salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk

How to:

Preheat oven to 375 and oil a loaf pan.
Stir the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. 
Add buttermilk and mix into a soft dough.
Transfer to loaf pan and cook in the center of your oven for 35 to 40 minutes.
Turn out onto a wire rack or plate to cool.

Notes and variations:

There are lots of soda bread recipes and variations, including double-sized recipes cooked in cake pans or on parchment on a cookie sheet for a round loaf and mixing up the ingredients with whole wheat flour, rye, raisins or currants, caraway seeds, butter, wheat germ, brown sugar, other sweeteners, eggs, sour cream instead of butter milk, etc. 

I have made round loaves on parchment by doubling the recipe, kneading the dough briefly to get it into a smooth ball, and then once the ball is on the parchment doing a few quick slits into the top, brushing with a little extra buttermilk and baking at 400 to get a very nice crust.

What all of these recipes seem to have in common is something close to a ratio of 2:1 dry to thick wet ingredient and a teaspoon of baking soda for every 2 Cups of flour. 

So my advice is to feel free to freestyle different flours, or sour cream instead of buttermilk, etc. but try to preserve those basic ratios.