Irish soda bread is a cheeky little dish. Eggs? No. Butter? No. Irish soda bread is whipped up in 20 minutes using the most basic of fridge and pantry staples. How did I not know about this sooner? Irish soda breads technique of using baking soda and cream of tartar along with simple panty staples to produce quick and cheap bread was brilliant and cheap. It came more as a necessity in poor times for the Irish, then it became a bit of a go to for its simplicity.
So how did I finally find this speedy winner? I am a lover of all things bread and carbohydrate related. Smothered in butter and whatever else I feel like at the time. I am VERY lucky that I have a fast metabolism – though it is catching up with me lately. We were the family that always had white bread in the house. I refused to eat anything wholemeal (I know, I know, how silly, but I was a terribly fussy kid). White bread on the side of some chicken lemon soup.
A sandwich with apple slices in summertime. Tomato sauce sandwiches that were lovingly made by my nan when visiting my dads house. School lunch would see bread lathered with peanut butter, or Vegemite or, even better, with Vegemite and salt and vinegar chips. You have to trust me on this one if you have never tried it. And for those of you in Northern Europe or our Kiwi cousins, Marmite does NOT compare to Vegemite. It just doesn’t.
I was hungry and craving a sandwich and was out of any kind of bread product. I was hungry now. With not a lot in the fridge (we buy things day-to-day given we had a little bar fridge and limited cupboard space). What was I to do? It was St Patrick’s Day and my Facebook feed was littered with pictures of green hatted people enjoying celebrations. Picture after picture of people drinking, smiling and chatting about fiddling potatoes or something of the sort. The answer came along about half way down my Facebook feed. Irish soda bread! Flour, baking soda, a bit of salt, a smidge of cream of tartar and some buttermilk. With a promise of a short baking time. It really doesn’t come more simply than that.
Had a dig and found I had everything I needed – even the buttermilk which I keep on hand for weekend pancakes. A promise of fresh easy bread in 15 minutes in the oven. Yup, sounded good to me. In the end I was not disappointed. One minute to mix, 2 minutes to knead and just over 15 minutes to bake and I ended up with some fresh Irish soda bread.
It sits somewhere between a regular fresh bread roll and a scone in texture and taste but without sugar or egg. One could argue it is healthier because of this. I prefer to note that it is cheap, easy to make and makes use of some of your pantry staples. That and you can have on the table in 20 minutes if you have unexpected guests or need to stretch your meal further than you thought. Irish soda bread works fabulously!
Soda bread is produced using very little kneading and no rise time for the dough. “Magic?” you ask? Kind of. It all happens because of acids and bases being mixed together to produce a quick ‘rise’ of the dough that doesn’t require yeast as a rising agent. Instead it uses baking soda, cream of tartar and buttermilk – the acids and base.
Baking soda or “bicarb” as it is lazily referred to in my kitchen, is simply sodium bicarbonate. Bicarb is a base product and is often used in household cleaning or for homemade health remedies. In cooking it is used in small quantities as a rising agent so you don’t end up with flat cakes or bread.
Cream of tartar, which is potassium bitartrate, is an acid. It is actually a waste product of winemaking found at the bottom of the barrels in the wine production process. Now who doesn’t love the idea of using the spoils of wine that I will have a glass of while contemplating dinner this evening? Buttermilk is also an acid, it is basically soured milk by adding lactic acid to milk and give it time to ferment.
In Irish soda bread’s dough process, the reaction of the buttermilk and cream of tartar (acids) along with the combination baking soda (bases) creates a chemical reaction that releases carbon dioxide gasses. These gasses cause an instant rise in the dough and gives it a satisfying crunch when baked. It does produce a heavier dough and bread, which in my eyes is not a bad thing for sopping up lovely gravies or served with your favourite soup.
If you do not have buttermilk at hand, you can make your own soured milk using fresh milk and white vinegar or lemon juice. Just add 1 tablespoon of the vinegar OR the lemon juice to one cup of milk and allow it to sit for 10 minutes before using. The rest of the ingredients are usually floating around a bakers pantry.
I found the dough is a slightly wetter dough and it was tricky to work with unless I continually floured my hands. Having said that, it only needs to be kneaded for 2 minutes, it really wasn’t a huge amount of trouble. Just work on a well floured surface and have some flour to the sides to re dust your hands with. Traditionally the Irish would score a cross into the top of the bun or loaf to ward off any evil spirits, I prefer the one score for presentation – oh, and I don’t have any evils floating around. Serve hot out of the oven with lashings of butter to sop up gravy or sauces or simply on their own with some jam for a midday snack.
Adapted from: Food to Love Irish Soda Bread http://www.foodtolove.com.au/recipes/irish-soda-bread-rolls-8276
Irish Soda Bread
450g plain flour
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 190°C fan forced or 210°C. Prepare a baking tray and line with baking paper.
- Mix in a large bowl all dry ingredients.
- Stir in buttermilk (or soured milk if you have prepared your own) until combined.
- Flour benchtop and turn out dough. Keep extra flour aside for your hands as the dough is quite wet. Knead for 1-2 mins until well combined.
- Roll into a log and cut into 6 equal pieces. Form balls and place on your prepared baking tray 2 cms apart.
- Dust tops of rolls with flour generously.
- Using a sharp knife, score the top of each roll.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown on top. To check doneness, tap the roll on top – it should sound hollow if it is ready. Serve warm with butter.
[lt_recipe name=”Irish Soda Bread” servings=”6″ prep_time=”3M” cook_time=”17M” total_time=”20M” difficulty=”Easy” summary=”Lovely hot Irish soda bread in under 20 minutes. ” image=”http://www.foodfascination.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Irish-Soda-Bread-Cooked-1024×683.jpg” ingredients=”450g plain flour;2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda;1 teaspoon cream of tartar;1/2 teaspoon salt;375mls buttermilk” ]Preheat oven to 190°C fan forced or 210°C. Prepare a baking tray and line with baking paper.;Mix in a large bowl all dry ingredients.;Stir in buttermilk (or soured milk if you have prepared your own) until combined.;Flour benchtop and turn out dough. Keep extra flour aside for your hands as the dough is quite wet. Knead for 1-2 mins until well combined.;Roll into a log and cut into 6 equal pieces. Form balls and place on your prepared baking tray 2 cms apart.;Dust tops of rolls with flour generously.;Using a sharp knife, score the top of each roll.;Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown on top. To check doneness, tap the roll on top – it should sound hollow if it is ready. Serve warm with butter.;[/lt_recipe]