Monday, March 17, 2014

Brown Soda Bread

Homemade Brown Soda Bread

I had no idea what soda bread was until I first encountered it Northern Ireland where I lived for a short time in the early 90s.

There, soda bread was everywhere, the round and rustic flour coated loaves prominently displayed in bakery windows and slices served with pats of butter in restaurants.

After buying a loaf to try for myself I determined that I really liked soda bread and deemed it a very tasty hybrid of a biscuit and bread.

There was no need to make homemade soda bread in Northern Ireland since it was readily available and cheap. Irish bakeries typically sell three versions of soda bread — white, brown and currant. My favorite is brown which is made with half whole-wheat and half unbleached self-rising flour.

Once I was back in the states though finding soda bread was a different story. Not many eat it here except maybe at an Irish restaurant or pub or for St. Patrick's Day. If I wanted to continue enjoying soda bread, and I definitely did, I had to make it for myself.

The leavening in soda bread comes from self-rising flour which is just flour mixed with a bit of baking powder and salt and baking soda, hence the name soda bread. The bread is very easy to make since it contains few ingredients, doesn't need to rise and bakes in just 25 to 30 minutes.

You can buy self-rising flour in the grocery store but it is much less expensive if you make it yourself. For every cup of flour, just add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder. With this recipe you can easily make self-rising flour when you need it at your convenience.

Here is the recipe for Brown Soda Bread:

Brown Soda Bread
(makes 2 loaves)
2 cups self-rising wheat flour
2 cups self-rising unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 to 3 cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix the self-rising flours with the baking soda. Make a well in the middle of the mixture and add enough buttermilk to moisten the ingredients and form a soft dough.
Make a well in the flour mixture and add enough buttermilk to form a soft dough.

Turn half of the dough onto a well floured surface and pat into an 8-inch round. Place the round onto the baking tray and with a floured knife score the dough into eighths, pressing the knife into 1/3 of the depth of the dough.
A scored loaf ready for the oven.
Repeat with the second half of dough and bake the loaves for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped with the fingers.
Loaves of just-baked brown soda bread.
A slice ready to be enjoyed.

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