This is a dead-simple method of producing a loaf of bread quickly to accompany a soup or stew. Actually any meal with liquid that needs sopping-up. The recipe called for plain flour, but I didn’t have enough so it was suggested by a fellow-baker that I should use any old flour that I had available. Well, not old flour – just whatever flour I had — and I had strong white bread flour, so I used that with ooooh-yummmm-happy-smile results. The basic recipe is:
Irish Soda Bread
300 grams of flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
250ml (a 284ml pot) buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C/Gas Mark 6.
Sift all dry ingredients together into a large bowl, being careful not to inhale the dusty white cloud created from the sifting, and then make a deep indentation in the flour (like when you were a kid and you made mud pies).
Pour the buttermilk into that ‘well’, and with a knife or fork flick flour from the edge of the ‘well’ into the buttermilk working outward until hand mixing is required to finish. Use only one hand so that your other hand remains clean to rotate the bowl. (Experience talking here) Fingertips are best so that you do not over-mix. The dough should be a soft but not wet. When it pulls together into a ball, knead lightly a few times to form a round, pulling the edges out and under and then tucked into the bottom of your ball. Then slash with a knife 1/2 way though the ball (so the fairies can escape and fly away!). Bake on a floured flat baking sheet for 30-40 minutes. Tap the bottom for that dead-hollow sound when rapped.
Allow to cool on a rack, covered with a tea towel for soft crust or without a towel for a harder, crispy crust. If any is leftover, well shame on you … but I suggest that you slice and toast it rather than eating it cold. Day-old soda bread isn’t worth writing about.
A few notes:
1. I slashed the ball too deeply the first time by following my aesthetic instincts and cutting 2/3rds way through. My dough ball looked more like an origami lotus flower than soda bread. Next time I’ll not slash below 1/2 the depth.
2. 30-minutes was plenty in my oven, and I suspect that a lower temperature might work okay, too, as it browned quite dark. Not burnt, just dark golden.
3. Not suitable for making homemade bread crumbs. Don’t know why; it just wouldn’t process fine enough.