Irish Soda Bread
Traditional Irish soda bread gets its name from the fact that there is no yeast. This bread uses sodium bicarbonate in conjunction with the acid from the buttermilk to create carbon dioxide, which leavens the loaf. Traditional buttermilk is the liquid leftover after whole milk has been churned into butter. If you make your own butter from organic cream, the liquid that remains is buttermilk. This type of buttermilk remains common in parts of world. Industrialized buttermilk is manufactured mostly from water, the milk sugar lactose, and the milk protein casein added. It is then pasteurized and homogenized, and lactic-acid-producing bacteria cultures are added; making it a fermented dairy product (which may or may not contain active cultures). The bacteria produce lactic acid which increases the acidity of the buttermilk, reducing the pH. Cow’s milk has a pH of 6.7–6.9, compared with 4.4–4.8 for buttermilk.
12 oz. of whole wheat flour; organic preferred
4 oz. of AP or cake flour (cake is preferred as it simulates the Irish wheat flour of the time, being a softer wheat with less gluten); organic preferred
14 ounces of organic buttermilk
1 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda.
Preheat the oven to 425 F. degrees. Lightly grease a Dutch oven. Allow the Dutch oven to heat in the oven for 15 minutes, at least. In a large bowl or stand mixer combine all the dry ingredients. Add the buttermilk a bit at a time to form a sticky dough. Place on floured surface and lightly knead; over kneading will allows the gas to escape and the bread will be too dense. Shape into a round flattened shape and cut a cross in the top of the dough. Place the loaf in the bottom of the preheated Dutch oven. Cover the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake for an additional 15 minutes. The bottom of the bread will make a hollow sound when tapped when it is done.
So whether off to the pub or holy ground (for some the same place), Irish you safe travels with a delicious slice of tradition to sustain you on the journey!