Sunday, April 3, 2011

Soda bread the way it should be....

Things have been pretty busy around Ireland Manor! We have stocked up on paint for the summer (it was all on sale!) and all our basement shelves are built. We even found time to clean the master bedroom and made room for a bassinet for the new baby (due in 7 weeks!). While you wait for pictures and postings of our recent projects and progress, I thought I'd share one of my favorite recipes with you.

If Americans know anything about Irish cuisine (and they don't) its that every meal (which must be corned beef and cabbage, right?) is accompanied by soda bread. You know, white, sweet, raisin or caraway seed speckled bread. But I don't call that soda bread. That is tea bread. Really, its nothing more than a giant scone! If you want something to serve with jam and tea, you can't go wrong with a tea bread or a scone. But if you want something to go along with your meat and potatoes, lamb stew or to make grilled Kerrygold cheese sandwiches, you want something closer to bread. Well look no further!

This is my all time favorite TRUE soda bread - mixed in one bowl, using soda, tartar and buttermilk for leavening and using a combination of fine and coarse flours. Its darker, its not as sweet as other soda breads and there is nothing better than a hunk of it with a slice of cheese and a pint of porter.

This recipe is being reprinted WITHOUT permission. It can be found in the excellent cookbook The Irish Heritage Cookbook, written by Margaret M. Johnson. Each recipe is accompanied with some historic or local background, making this cookbook an essential in any Irish American cook's kitchen. I have added my comments in parenthesis:

Mills Inn Brown Soda Bread

2 cups coarse whole-wheat flour or 1 cup each wheat bran and old-fashioned oatmeal (If you'd like to try something even more authentic, try this flour from King Arthur Flours.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar (who knew you could use it for something other than meringues!)
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cold butter (closer to room temp if you will be using my mixing method)
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 F. Lightly grease a 9 inch round cake pan (olive oil works great).

In a large bowl, stir the flours or wheat bran and oatmeal, salt, baking soda, cream of tartar and sugar together. With a pastry cutter, 2 knives or your fingers (this is the method I use, though you could do this part in a food processor), cut or work the butter into the dry ingredients to the texture of coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center and add the buttermilk. With a wooden spoon (or your hand), mix until a soft dough is formed (I mix this together using the flip method: scoop under the flour and flip it over, rotating the bowl as you go to incorporate the milk and flour).

(If you have mixed the dough with your hand, keep flipping dough until it forms a cohesive, smooth ball, kneading gently. Stop when the dough sticks together and comes clean away from all sides of the bowl. Transfer dough ball to the prepared tin or cake pan.)
Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead lightly, just enough to form a large ball. Flour your hands if necessary for easier handling. (We just skipped this.)
Flatten slightly. With a sharp knife, make a cross on the top. (Do not cut down into your dough too far making your cross, only about 1/4-1/2 an inch.)
Place the dough in the prepared pan (done earlier) and bake until the bread is lightly browned and sounds hollow when tapped, 35 to 40 minutes.

Now, go eat it!


  1. I've actually wondered many times, Exactly *what else* would one use Cream of Tartar for aside from snickerdoodles? Now I know of two more.

  2. I use it when I make hand whipped cream, also. Helps it stabilize and not "weep" before I need to use it!