Baking with yeast can be a daunting prospect, which is why Irish soda bread--which uses baking powder, bicarb and buttermilk to rise--is a easy task for baking beginners to tackle.
I love the chewy wholesomeness of Irish soda bread. My Irish friend tells me a traditional way to eat it is with butter and honey, but I much prefer it slathered only in butter, or otherwise sandwiched around a thick wedge of vintage cheddar and a pickle or two.
The caraway seeds in the recipe add a faint flavour of licorice. If you enjoy the taste, feel free to add more. If licorice isn't your thing, then reduce or omit at your pleasure.
Irish soda bread
(originally printed in Notebook Magazine, 2007)
2 cups (320g) wholemeal plain flour
1 cup (150g) plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 cup (125ml) milk
3/4 cup (185ml) buttermilk, plus a little extra for brushing
2 tsp honey
sea salt flakes to dust
Preheat oven to 200C
Mix together the milk, buttermilk and honey in a jug.
In a large bowl, combine the flours, salt, bicarb, cream of tartar, baking powder and caraway seeds.
Make a well in the centre and then slowly pour in the milk mixture, gradually pulling in the flours from the sides to combine. Mix with a wooden spoon until it just comes together in a ball.
Transfer the mixture to a lightly floured surface and gently knead, using the heel of your hand, until smooth.
Shape the dough into a round shape, then place onto a lightly floured oven tray. Cut a small 1cm-deep cross into the top of the dough. Brush the surface with the extra buttermilk and then dust with the sea salt flakes.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a golden-brown crust has formed and the bread is cooked through (tap the crust and it should sound hollow, otherwise risk sacrilege and test with a skewer).
Enjoy warm with butter, butter and honey, or as part of a ploughman's lunch with vintage cheddar, pickles, pickled onions and hearty slices of ham.
This also freezes well, wrapped tightly. Freeze whole, or in slices for gradual consumption.
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8/06/2008 05:52:00 p.m.