Monday, March 9, 2009

Hearty Irish Soda Bread

Hearty Irish Soda Bread
This weekend I set about making some of my favorite comfort foods. It had been a long week at work and I felt the need to bake. With St. Patrick's Day just around the corner I ended up with an old favorite Irish Soda Bread. There to seal the deal was my boyfriend, Chris, who had never had this wonderful brown bread before. I had thought to serve it with some delicious soup and sandwiches; however it was quick to disappear. We ended up enjoying it with butter hot out of the pan and then the next morning toasted along with jam and eggs.

Irish Soda Bread is what is known as a quick bread. Quick breads usually use baking soda or baking powder as leavener instead of yeast (which usually takes a couple hours to rise). This ingredient distinction is what gives this bread its name. It is a quick and easy option for beginners and will turn out warm, hearty, whole wheat bread. This bread is amazing for corned beef sandwiches, served alongside soups and stews, or on its own hot out of the oven with a slather of butter. The following recipe is based on one from a favorite foodie of mine Heidi, from 101 cookbooks. I have made several changes making this bread a full flavored twist on her original basic version.

4 cups coarse whole wheat flour
*2 cups spelt flour
2 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 ½ cups buttermilk
2 tbs. salted butter
2 eggs
¼ cup flax seed (optional)
Oatmeal, seeds, nuts, coarse sea salt (optional)
*Spelt flour is nice and it adds a little to the texture and nutritional value of the bread but you can use all whole wheat flour or a combination of your favorite flours to achieve the texture/color you want.

Use a medium sized bowl and beat the eggs buttermilk and butter (softened) until light and golden in color, it should take about 30 seconds, do not over mix.
In another bowl combine dry ingredients, including flax if using, and be sure to break up any clumps.
Mix in the beaten buttermilk until a batter is formed.

If cooking in traditional loaf pans you will want to stop when the batter is thick but still very wet so you can pour it into the pan. Pour batter into one standard 9x5 in. loaf pan or two mini loaf pans. Dust with oatmeal, seeds, or maybe coarse sea salt! Bake on center rack at 400° for about 50 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick in center comes out clean.

* If cooking as a free standing round reduce buttermilk by ½ cup and stir in wet ingredients until a sticky dough forms. Dust with additional flower and other ingredients if desired and shape into a round. Bake on parchment paper lined baking sheet on center rack at 350° for about 60 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick in center comes out clean.

Makes 1 loaf

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