12 March 2012

Brown Soda Bread

Is it just me or does making bread sound pretty darn daunting? I've been wanting to get into it for months now but every time I look at a recipe, or a bread how-to, I read through the laundry list of tricks and all I gather is a bunch of things that could go wrong. Or it calls for bread flour. Which I never have. Or I can't find the yeast, which is buried somewhere deep in the depths of the refrigerator. Whatever the case, just as I am about to do it I lose my nerve. But man, home made bread...what is better?

This morning- I conquered my fear. Via Irish Soda Bread. It might have been because I had a whole morning to myself, or because the Irish lass in me is peeking out as St. Patty's is right around the corner. Or because it didn't require bread flour or yeast, but whatever the reason this recipe jumped out at me and before I talked myself out of it I was measuring flour.

Brown Soda Bread
makes one large loaf (about 12-inches round) or two small loaves (about 6-inches round)

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons Sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons maple syrup

2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2-3 cups buttermilk
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 425° F

In a small dish, measure two heaping tablespoons of sugar and add maple syrup in 1/2 teaspoon increments until you reach a sandy consistency. I used grade B maple syrup for a more maple flavor, but you can really use any maple syrup you have on hand. 

In a large bowl, mix together the flours, maple sugar, baking soda, and salt.  If you were a master baker you might consider sifting these ingredients. I am not a master baker, so I fluffed them with a fork. 

That bowl was my great-great grandmother's bread making bowl. I was trying to channel her bread karma today.

Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add 2 1/2 cups of the buttermilk*. Mix the ingredients in a full circle drawing the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more buttermilk as needed until the dough is soft and smooth, but not too wet.

Dump dough out onto a floured work surface.  Gather the dough into one large or two small balls, rolling it around with lightly floured hands.  Pat each ball into loaf shape about 2 inches high.

Place the dough onto a prepared baking sheet. I greased mine but you could also use parchment paper. Brush the top with the melted butter.  Using a sharp knife, score the top of the bread with an X.

Bake for 30-35 minutes for the small loaves and 40-45 minutes for the large loaf.  

Transfer bread to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.  Serve warm, at room temperature, or reheat before slicing.  

I just ate that. It was buttered, drizzled with maple syrup and still warm from the oven. This stuff dries out pretty quickly so I would recommend making it the day you plan to serve it, or sealing it tightly and freezing it. I am bringing a loaf to a Guinness cooking class tomorrow night.


*About buttermilk, did you know there are lots of ways to make your own substitutes for buttermilk?  You can add a dash of vinegar or lemon juice to milk, or add cream of tartar to milk, or yogurt! Today I used a 3 to 1 ratio of plain yogurt to milk.  

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