Simple White Soda Bread. 5 minutes to prepare and 30 minutes to bake.
Donal Skehan (food writer & photographer)* and Eamonn Holms (ITV presenter) had opposing interpretations on Soda Bread on ITV’s ‘This Morning’ programme recently. Eamonn dug his heels firmly in the white corner and insisted that what Donal was making would be known as ‘Wheaten Bread’ so I threw the question out there on twitter and the answers that came back varied. Some were all for white flour, some for brown and some for a mixture of both, so I did a little research.
Like most things in life, there is more than one right way of doing things and in the book “Irish Cooking” by Clare Connery she lists a recipe for “White Soda Bread’ and for ‘Irish Wheaten Bread (Brown Soda)’. Now I have to qualify this by saying that in the introduction Clare says that she writes the book in Strangford Lough in Co. Down, so there must be a Northern influence to be acknowledged which would tie with Eamonn Holms origins of Northern Ireland too.
Turning to Darina Allen’s book Ballymaloe Cookery Course, she lists ‘White Soda Bread’ and ‘Brown Soda Bread’ recipes. So, what soda bread means to you will depend on what you grew up with. You may indeed have grown up with both white and brown or for that matter neither.
What both breads do have in common is buttermilk and bicarbonate of soda (bread soda or sodium bicarbonate).
The buttermilk that I buy lists its ingredients as Skimmed Milk and Lactic Cultures. True buttermilk is the residual milk that is left after churning butter. As it is something that is not readily available outside of Ireland, you may want to consider making your own – I’ve seen a recipe that mixes a cup of milk with 1 tsp of lemon juice or plain vinegar and lets it sit for 15 minutes. Sour milk or yoghurt are also suggested substitutes. Darina Allen’s book says ‘If sour milk is not available for soda bread, use ordinary milk but add 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar, as well as the bicarbonate of soda to each 450g of flour.’
Bicarbonate of soda (bread soda or sodium bicarbonate or baking soda).
This is used as a raising agent in recipes that contain an acidic ingredient i.e. buttermilk.
During the course of making the potato farls last weekend I was asking my sisters (I have 3) if any of them had Granny’s recipes. Grainne produced a notebook of hand written recipes (via Skype) that she had put together and this included a ‘White Soda bread’ recipe. We’re not 100% sure of the provenance of the recipe as Grainne wrote it down from either Granny or my Mum and one of the instructions reads “Put cross in – so that fairies don’t jinx bread!”
Right, too much information so on to the recipe.
White Soda Bread
You will need:
400g plain flour and some extra for dusting and shaping
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 egg and splash milk for egg wash.
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/Gas Mark 6.
Place baking tray to heat in the oven.
Sift the flour into a bowl and sift in the bicarbonate of soda.
Mix well with a fork to distribute the bicarbonate of soda evenly.
Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk.
Mix together with a wooden spoon to form a gloopy dough.
Lightly dust the worktop with some flour and pour out the dough.
Sprinkle a dusting of flour on the dough and with some on your hands shape the bread into a round. It will be sticky so don’t attempt to knead it.
Remove the heated baking tray from the oven and dust a little flour on the tray.
Place the dough on the tray and score a cross on the top with a knife. (-so that fairies don’t jinx bread!)
Brush the top and sides with a mixture of beaten egg and milk.
Bake in the hot oven for 20 minutes. Then reduce the heat to 175C/Gas Mark 4 and bake for a further 10 minutes.
(The base of the bread should be hollow when tapped).
It’s lovely hot with melting butter or smeared generously with jam.
Til next time, Sheila (with thanks to Grainne x)
*Donal Skehan has written two books – Good Mood Food and Kitchen Hero which is due for release shortly. His website is www.donalskehan.com and his Irish Soda Bread and Irish Seafood Chowder recipes that he cooked on ITV are available here http://thismorning.itv.com/thismorning/food/irish-seafood-chowder