Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Real McCoy - Wholemeal Irish Soda Bread

I know St. Patrick's Day is still weeks away, but I wanted to make sure that those of you who are tempted to try a real soda bread, have plenty of time to test recipes before selecting the one you'll finally use. I know it's hard to believe, but this is what a true Irish soda bread should look like. The addition of raisins, sugar and caraway is an English embellishment that produces a bread that should, more correctly, be called Spotted Dog. Irish peasants lived, for the most part, on a diet of potatoes, grains and milk. Bread appeared on their tables only during the summer, or "meal months", when potato stores had been exhausted. The bread was typically made in a lidded cast iron pot called a bastible, but in Northern Ireland it was shaped into a disk, called a farl, and scored with a cross to "let the devil out" as the bread rose and cooked. Our bread is devilishly good. This simple loaf is delicious when made with Irish wholemeal flour. Unfortunately, our (U.S.) whole wheat flour lacks the flavor of its Irish cousin and we have to fiddle and fudge to make a loaf that is anywhere near as flavorful. The good news is that it can be done by using a combination of flours, and boosting their flavor with oatmeal and wheat germ. The recipe I'm passing on to you was developed by Jeanne Lemlin and she has come up with a combination of grains that result in a typically Irish loaf. You'll find it to be wonderful, if you can clear your head and palate of long held notions of what a soda bread should be. There is nothing here but the flavor of the grain. One bite, and a slow and deliberate chew will convince you that nothing else is necessary. I love this and make it often. When we have guests, I serve it with Irish butter or a whipped cream cheese and a small platter of thinly sliced smoked salmon. I have, however, come to enjoy it completely unadorned. Plain or fancy, the bread should sit for 2 hours before slicing. It crumbles easily in the early stages of cooling, so it really needs this time to firm up. I really hope you'll try this bread. It is really wonderful. Like all soda breads, it stales quickly and is best enjoyed the day it is made. Here's the recipe.

Wholemeal Irish Soda Bread ...from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite courtesy Of Jeanne Lemlin


1-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus additional for sprinkling

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

1/4 cup toasted wheat germ

1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into bits

1-1/3 cups well-shaken buttermilk or plain yogurt


1) Move rack to center of oven and preheat to 425 degrees F.

2) Whisk together flours, oats, wheat germ, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and toss to coat with flour. Then blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk and stir until dough is evenly moistened, but still lumpy.

3) Knead dough on a lightly floured surface, dusting with flour to prevent sticking, 1 minute (dough should remain soft and slightly sticky). Shape dough into a ball. Pat out dough on a lightly floured baking sheet into a 7-inch round. Dust dough with flour and spread lightly over round with your fingertips. Cut a 4- to 5-inch X (1/2 inch deep) in top of dough.

4) Bake in middle of oven until bread sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, 35 to 35 minutes. Cool on a rack 2 hours before slicing. Yield: 1 loaf.

You might also enjoy these recipes:

Chocolate Soda Bread - Real Epicurean

Browned Butter Soda Bread - Vanilla Sugar

Authentic Irish Soda Bread - Confessions of a Kitchen Witch

Oat Soda Bread - 101 Cookbooks

Irish Soda Bread - The English Kitchen

Brown Bread - David Lebovitz

Soda Bread - Farmersgirl Kitchen

Irish Soda Bread Scones - Brown Eyed Baker

Irish Soda Bread Scones - Smitten Kitchen

Caraway Soda Bread - Simply Recipes

Oats and Honey Irish Soda Bread with Raisins - Baking Bites

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