Thursday, March 29

Soda Bread

I am on a bread stint.  Maybe it is because the soul-crippling doubt of junior year is setting in and I crave comfort food, or maybe it is because I lived off of soup for two weeks and now I need something solid.  So I cracked open a few cook books and started to salivate.  I opted to make soda bread because I was only missing one ingredient (the buttermilk), I had two hours free before work, and I did not have any soda bread at O'Flaherty's two weeks ago.

It turns out that soda bread is the official bread of Ireland, but it is also present in Australian, British, and Serbian traditions.  And making it requires so little effort.  Just mix all the ingredients together and stick them in the oven.  When the baking soda mixes with the acidic buttermilk, a chemical reaction occurs and creates little air bubbles so you don't have to wait for the dough to rise!

There are so many varieties of soda bread, and this recipe is about as simple as it gets.  That is why I like Alice Waters' recipes - they provide the perfect structure to show you the basics of the food so you can be creative and inventive later.  Next time I make this bread, I will probably use whole wheat flour and incorporate nuts and currants.  With this version, I recommend toasting slices of bread and drizzling honey on it for a scrumptious snack.  Nothing is better than homemade bread.

Soda Bread
from Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food

3 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Mix the dry ingredients (flour, salt, and baking soda) in a large bowl.
Make a well with the dry ingredients and pour in about 3/4 of the buttermilk (or 1 1/2 cups).
Stir, slowly encorporating the dry ingredients.  The dough should be soft but not sticky or wet.  If needed, add more buttermilk.  I used about 1 7/8 cup before the dough became unbelievably sticky and I had to add more flour.
Knead the dough on a floured surface just until it comes together.  Do not over mix though because then you'll pound out the air bubbles and your bread will be denser.  Pat it into a round loaf that is about 1 1/2 inches high.
Put the dough on your baking sheet of choice and cut a deep X in the top.  Make sure to cut deeply and all the way to the edges, as this will help the bread rise uniformly.
Bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees F.  Then lower the temperature to 400 degrees F and bake for another 30 minutes, or until done.  Check the bread's readiness by tapping on the bottom.  If it sounds hollow, it's done.

This song was not actually written by an Irishman, but I love it anyway.  Someday soon I'll traipse my way through the Irish countryside.  Steven Earle's 'Galway Girl':

Waters, Alice, Patricia Curtan, Kelsie Kerr, and Fritz Steiff. "Soda Bread." The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution. New York: Clarkson Potter, 2007. 274. Print.

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