Basic soda bread

Yield: 1 Cake

Measure Ingredient
3½ cup Cake or All-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Granulated Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
8 ounces Buttermilk; (up to 10)

Two main factors have long affected the historic course of Irish bread making. The first is related to the climate, in that this land is greatly influenced by the gulf Stream to the extent that it is neither hot in the summer nor cold in the winter. Hence, the forty shades of green and the fact that traditional hard wheats utilized in bread baking do not grow well.

At least in the last millennium, Ireland has been relatively plentiful in fuel for baking. Various medieval overlords of Ireland were never able to exercise tight control over the forest land so firewood could be freely poached. As a result, anyone with a hearthstone could afford to bake on a small scale.

In Ireland plain soda bread is as likely to be served as a accompaniment to a main meal in order to soak up the gravy as it's likely to appear with the breakfast in a fry. Soda bread comes in white or brown varieties and is served as a cake or a farl, based on regional differences. We'll being including all the various Soda Bread variations during our All-Irish Cooking month at Recipe-a-Day!

Sift the dry ingredients together several times in a large mixing bowl to make sure the bicarbonate of soda is evenly distributed. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and a pour about three-quarters of the buttermilk into the center and start stirring. Continue to mix until you achieve a dough that is raggy and very soft. Add more buttermilk sparingly is you need it, as local conditions of humidity and temperature greatly impact the mixture.

Blend quickly, but not too energetically until the whole mass of dough has become a floury, raggy consistency. Turn the contents of the bowl out onto a lightly floured surface and start to knead the bread.

Your primary concern is speed in kneading. The chemical reaction of the bicarbonate of soda with the acidic buttermilk starts as soon as they meet.

You need to get the Soda Bread into the oven while the reactions running high, so don't over knead. Spend about 30-seconds kneading the dough and shape the bread into a slightly domed circle about 6 to 8-inches in diameter. Place the dough on a baking sheet that has been lightly dusted with flour and use a sharp knife to cut across the circle making sure the cut goes about halfway down through the sides of the circle of dough so that it will flower properly.

Bake for about 10-minutes in a 350-F to 400-F Degree pre-heated oven, then decrease the heat and continue to bake another 30 to 35-minutes until you can tap the loaf and a hallowish sound is produced.

For a crunchy crust place the cooked cake on the rack to cool. For a softer crust, wrap the cake in a clean dishcloth and store as soon as it’s out of the oven. Either way, the soda bread is wonderful sliced or split and served hot with sweet butter and the jelly or jam of your choice.

Posted to dailyrecipe@... by The Cook & Kitchen Staff <dailyrecipe-owner@...> on Mar 03, 1998

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