This was a test to determine if I could mix-up a batch of soda bread dough in the morning, wrap it tightly in cling film, and then refrigerate it until an hour before dinner was ready to serve. There was mixed opinion on whether the bicarbonate of soda would have any get-up-and-go left in it after sitting about for so long — many of my baking friends thought that it should be baked immediately after mixing. That’s what I was taught also, but for me time and timing is an issue. Dinner needs to be on the table within a short time of my husband arriving home. The reason is medical rather than my being an anything-you-want-dear type person. There was one differing opinion from a friend with a great deal of experience in such matters, Chef Gregoire Michaud at the Four Seasons Hotel in Hong Kong. I am so fortunate to have a friend who’s so generous with his knowledge. His beautiful blog is at http://gregoiremichaud.com and it’s well worth a visit.
Gregoire said that his pastry team at the hotel often make up huge batches of scones in advance, and that a few hours in the fridge would do no harm whatsoever. And as always, he was right. The bread had good ovenrise and excellent crumb for a soda bread pretending to be a focaccia (flatbread).
This is a modified version of Rachel Allen’s recipe on UK Good Food http://uktv.co.uk/food/recipe/aid/595352
Quick White Soda Focaccia with Cheddar
450 g plain flour, plus more for dusting
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp fine sea salt
125 g cheddar, grated
400 ml buttermilk (not low-fat)
First thing to do is preheat the oven to at least 230C/gas 8. The initial blast of heat should be very high. Don’t be concerned as the temperature is lowered after 10-minutes. Brush a baking tray generously with olive oil, or line with non-stick parchment paper. I use the parchment paper method to reduce calories and keep the bread’s GI number lower. Although olive oil is a “good fat”, it is very high in calories, which a diabetic needs to keep controlled.
Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl, and then add the salt and approx. 1/4 of the grated cheese. Toss and mix with your hands. Make a well in the centre and pour into it 3/4 of the buttermilk. With your fingers stiff and separated apart like a rake, start mixing the flour into the buttermilk using a quick circular motion, working the flour into the liquid. Add the remaining buttermilk and keep mixing like this until you have soft, sticky dough. Just mix, do not knead, until all the ingredients are combined. Wait for 10-minutes for the dough to relax, and then transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Lightly pat into a ball, sprinkle a touch of flour over the top, and then (using a rolling pin) roll out to about 2-3cm thick. Transfer the dough to the parchment paper/baking tray, make dimples in the dough with your fingers, and then lightly brush the top with olive oil. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Cook in the oven for 18-25 minutes, depending on how thick it is. Turn the oven down to 200C/gas 6 after 10 minutes. When cooked it should feel firm in the centre and be golden brown.
Transfer it to a wire rack to cool for a couple of minutes. Cut into squares and serve.
Again, thanks to my friend, Gregoire, for his wise guidance on this recipe.