Friday, March 16, 2018

Irish Soda Bread

I did some St. Patty's Day cooking with Jeff Rogstad on the local CTV noon show. Well, cooking is a bit of a misnomer ~ there's no oven on the set. Jeff and I mixed a batch of dough, then I whipped out another Irish soda bread I had cooked at home. Voila! Instantly done.

I left the cooked bread behind for Jeff to enjoy with the crew, then I took home and baked the dough we made on set. Everyone was happy.

This bread has good chemistry: the baking soda is activated by the acidic buttermilk, giving rise to a simple traditional bread. If you don't have buttermilk in the fridge do this: put 2 tbsp plain white vinegar into a 2-cup measure, then fill with milk to the 2-cup mark. Stir well and let sit 5 minutes to thicken.

It's important to cut the bread before baking ~ a deep sharp cut that allows the bread to "bloom" in the oven and rise up crusty and brown. I cut mine with a serrated bread knife. If you do not slash deep enough, the centre of the bread may be under cooked.

4 cups all purpose flour (or 3+1 cup whole wheat flour)
1 tbsp sugar (optional)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups buttermilk

1. Hold back 1/2 cup of flour. Blend the rest of the flour with the sugar, salt and baking soda.

2. Pour the buttermilk onto the flour. I like to pour it in a circle rather than a well the middle of the bowl. Mix quickly with a fork and then with your fingers to incorporate the liquid into the flour to make a sticky dough.
 
3. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead by hand, using the extra 1/2 cup of flour as needed to flour your hands and prevent sticking. Work quickly, kneeding as little as necessary to get a soft smooth dough that is no longer sticky, just 1-2 minutes.

4. Place the ball of dough on a baking sheet and press to flatten the top. Slash the dough with a knife, cutting a good 1 inch (2 cm) deep.

6. Bake at 425F for 35-40 minutes. When cooked, the bread will be quite brown and a good tap on the bottom will sound hollow. Allow to cool a few minutes before slicing. Eat with butter or jam or both!


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