Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Irish Soda Bread

 I was watching an episode of Jacques Pepin a few evenings ago and one of the items he made for a meal was Irish Soda Bread. He made it in a pan, not the oven. There's not a simpler bread I know of. The bread rises as it "bakes" and the cooking time necessary for this recipe is mere minutes.

 When I was watching Pepin, I didn't have paper and pencil handy so I made mental notes as he time-shared between the bread and other items. Since then I've read a few recipes on the net and what I made is perhaps a combination of many ideas.

 I wasn't much counting on it working ... not this first time anyway. But it did. Perfectly.

There are but four ingredients in this bread:

1 cup white flour (I had bread flour but it shouldn't be necessary)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
A "large splash" of buttermilk (read below)

 I just added the dry ingredients in a small mixing bowl and stirred them together with a spoon.
 You are to add a "large splash" of buttermilk to the dry ingredients. You want the dough to be thick and workable with your hands but certainly not wet like pancake mix.

 I found 1/3 pint of buttermilk - maybe a little less - to be about right. Initially I thought more was needed but when I made this a second time, I found 1/3 pint (5-6 ounces) to be about right. A "large splash" - as  the recipe calls for - is a little too undefined.

I stirred this with a spoon and then poured it onto a pastry cloth that I'd dusted with flour. I added a little more flour to my hands and lightly dusted the top of the dough ball. I kneaded it just a little.

The dry ingredients 

The dough poured onto a dusted pastry cloth 

Formed into a flat circle, I added it to a non-stick pan

 This recipe makes one "farl" - the name for a traditional Irish Soda bread. It can be cut into pie-shaped wedges for individual servings.

 When one side is done, the bread can be flipped onto the other side. It should be at least this brown.

 How do you know when it's done? It takes 5-10 minutes per side. The only way to check that it is done is to insert a skewer (such as a toothpick) and see if it comes out clean. Initially I set the electric burner to medium and backed off a bit as it cooked.

 The pan I used was non-stick but I still coated it lightly with Crisco. Also, as the farl cooks, a little more buttermilk can be poured around the edges. This seems to enhance cooking and prevent sticking.

 A word of warning: this doesn't taste like traditional bread. Without yeast and sugar is tastes much more "plain". With a slab of butter (which I've already tried) and maybe a spoonful of jam, it serves as an understated bread.

But it is a way to turn out a serving of bread quickly, without all the kneading and rise times.

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