Sunday, 21 October 2012

Traditional Irish Soda Bread

Some many months ago we attended the play The Communication Cord, written by Brian Friel, and directed expertly by John P. Kelly of SevenThirty Productions, at The Gladstone Theatre. Not only were we delightfully entertained, but in the program there was a great recipe for traditional Irish soda bread. We have been using the recipe (below) and it makes a fine soda bread.

According to Wikipedia (the source of all knowledge?) soda bread is "a variety of quick bread traditionally made in a variety of cuisines in which sodium bicarbonate (otherwise known as baking soda) is used as a leavening agent instead of the more common yeast."  In Ottawa, it is a tradition to eat soda bread during the last break at the Comhaltas (Ottawa Branch) monthly ceilis. A wide variety of soda breads are made for these occasions by the members of the organisation. That is to say, there are more than one way to make a soda bread, though the recipes are all quite basic.

If you haven't made Irish soda bread before, you might want to watch this  video clip from RTE food (and a very similar recipe).  If you're really serious, you had better review the webpage contents of the Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread (that's some serious stuff, there).

The recipe obtained from the Gladstone play is listed as "Nora Dan's Recipe for Traditional Irish Soda Bread" (just who is Nora Dan?):  

  • 4 cups (16  oz) of all purpose flour
  • 1 Teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 Teaspoon of salt
  • 14 oz. (1 3/4 cup) of buttermilk (you can use 14oz if thinned yogurt, buttermilk is available in large groceries)
  • Preheat oven to 425F. Lightly grease and flour a cake pan (8-10")
  • In a large bowl sieve and combine all the dry ingredients
  • Make a well in the dry ingredients in the bowl
  • Add the buttermilk slowly to the well, and mix in with your hands to form a sticky dough (add and mix, add more and mix, ...)
  • Place on a floured surface and lightly knead (too much allows the gas to escape)
  • Shape into round flat shape in the cake pan and cut a cross in the top of the dough
  • Cover the pan with another pan and bake for 30 minutes (this simulates the "bastible pot")
  • Remove the cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes
  • The bottom of the bread will have a hollow sound when tapped to show it is done
  • Cover the bread in a tea towel and lightly sprinkle water on the cloth to keep the bread moist
Let it cool a while, then slice, butter, and eat as-is or add some jam or jelly. It's heaven!

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