Today, for New Food Friday, I wanted to make a soda bread that’s baked in a Dutch oven and I thought I had pinned that recipe some time ago. Turns out, what I had actually pinned was a sour dough recipe that you bake in a Dutch oven and, separately, I also pinned a soda bread recipe.
However, today I really wanted to do a ‘quick’ bread recipe and I wanted to use my lovely Creuset cast iron pan. So I did a little googling and this brought me to the website of the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread. It had some really fascinating information – for I didn’t even really know why soda bread kept being referred to as ‘Irish’. It was a type of bread popularized in the 19th century in Ireland for it was a bread that was quick to make with cheap (lower quality) flour – which was a necessity after the potato famine. Flour made from soft wheat, which was cheaper than flour made from hard wheat, doesn’t really work that well with yeast – soda was the better alternative. However, the Irish didn’t invent the soda bread recipe, the website mentions than native Americans already used a soda as a rising agent for bread.
Because this dough doesn’t require any real kneading or resting (it’s being referred to as a quick bread) it doesn’t break up the gluten the way yeast does. The bread gets its rise from the reaction of the baking soda with a sour ingredient (this used to be sour milk, nowadays most recipes use buttermilk). The result is pretty tasty but the bread doesn’t keep very well at all. I guess that’s because you do not really work elasticity into the dough like you do when kneading and resting your dough multiple times – as is the case with a yeast bread recipe like sourdough.
As the recipes on this website were for a dutch oven I decided to go the original route and try their authentic recipe.
- wholewheat flour
- white flour
- bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
- the website says the butter is optional and not really authentic – but I love butter so I went for it
Put flour in the bowl with salt and baking soda…
…and work it into the flour with your fingertips until you have a crumbly flour. At this point I noticed it was quite a big recipe and I doubted whether it would fit my Creuset. So I decided to divide this mixture over two bowls and make two smaller loafs.
Next, you add the buttermilk…
…and mix with a wooden spoon until you have a sticky dough. You then dump that out of your bowl onto a floured surface…
…and quickly knead it together and shape it into a round disk. It’s important to NOT over knead this dough as that will let the gas escape (that gas is the result of the soda reacting with the buttermilk) and then your bread won’t rise.
You have to butter and flour your pan…
…then place your dough in the pan and cut a cross (about half an inch deep) in the top of the dough…
…place lid on top of your pan and place in a preheated oven (220 degrees centigrade).
After 30 minutes you remove the lid and bake for another 15 minutes. The bread is done when you tap the bottom of your bread and it sounds hollow.
Freshly baked bread in under an hour!
Now, for second loaf I deviated a bit from the recipe because I wanted to make it a bit more exciting. So after crumbing the butter into the dough I added chopped sun-dried tomatoes, olives and herbs de provence.
The rest of the process was exactly the same. Here it is in the pan before baking…
…here we are after 30 minutes…
We had this loaf together with a simple soup for dinner and it was delicious!!! Especially when still warm and with lots of extra butter.
I don’t think the other loaf will keep well until tomorrow morning – it’s already rock hard! However, I definitely see myself making this more often as a quick side for a simple dinner or lunch. I would like to experiment with other fillings – even though that’s not authentic. It’s delicious is what it is.