Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Soda Bread Experience

Okay, here's what we started with:

Ballyvolane House Brown Soda Bread
(Makes 2 Loaves)
1 1/2 lbs. wholemeal flour
1 handful wheat bran
2 handfuls wheat germ
2 1/4 lbs. pinhead oatmeal (aka chunky-grade)
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sieved baking soda
1 liter buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease bread tins with butter.

Mix dry ingredients well.
Add buttermilk and stir until mixed thoroughly with the dry ingredients.
Divide mixture into 2 bread tins and sprinkle with a little additional pinhead oatmeal.
Bake for 1 hour on oven upper shelf.

Of course that meant ordering the "pinhead oatmeal" from amazon (thank you, Kate Walker, for your excellent sleuthing out of a US stockist). And I was particularly pleased in this case because I belong to amazon prime and so I got 2nd day shipping as a part of my regular fee. The FOUR BAGS of pinhead oatmeal duly appeared yesterday afternoon. I think I got more than my money's worth of shipping on that parcel alone!

Anyway, today I went to get the buttermilk at the grocery store, but it turns out that everyone and their Irish relatives are baking soda bread today (apparently) as there was a run on buttermilk (when else is there ever a run on buttermilk, for heaven's sake?), so all they had was half gallons of the stuff. No, thanks. We don't love buttermilk that much.

I came home and soured a liter of milk with some lemon juice. Basically the same thing. And then I greased my pans (more of them than two because it was quite clear that I was going to need more than two). And I mixed together all the ingredients.

Adding the liter of milk was, um, interesting. I thought I had way too much liquid. But give the oats two minutes and they've sopped it all up and are begging for more. I made two loaves of regular and two with raisins (because some of the soda bread I've eaten -- probably the adulterated American version) had raisins. I draw the line at caraway seeds though. Not putting those in.

I was supervised in this project by three hopeful dogs and a kiwi tea cosy. The kiwi tea cosy was a gift from Barbara Clendon of Barbara's Books in Auckland, NZ (well, close to Auckland anyway). When The Prof and I visited NZ three years ago, Barbara and her husband kindly invited us to stay with them. We had a wonderful time seeing Auckland and visiting with the Clendons. Barbara had a kiwi tea cosy I much admired -- and a few months later one came to live with us. Barbara had brought it from a bird sanctuary they'd visited near the Coromandel peninsula, I think. The kiwi takes a great interest in everything that goes on in the kitchen. He could barely keep his beak out of the soda bread.

They baked nicely while I cleaned the living room. And then I took them out - and discovered that the trickiest bit was getting them out of the pans. In fact the roundish loaf was, I thought, permanently welded to the pot in which I baked it. The one in the tin came out best, so I think the moral of the story is "use tin" not glass baking pans.

But whatever you use, line up lots of people to help you eat it because it makes enough to feed the Irish Army (does Ireland have an army? If so, they are welcome to come and share soda bread with us). The prof was gobbling up slices of it as I came upstairs to write this. I trust there will still be plenty when I go back downstairs. It's wonderful.

Flynn approves. So does The Prof -- and the kiwi.


Blogger Anna Lucia said...

Best Kept Secret - Soda Bread and Marmite... mmmmmm

Actually, I caused Husband to have hysterical laughter when I baked soda bread on a whim on St Patrick's Day.

I hadn't given much thought to the date, but he'd been teased at work all day for objecting to their general air of Irish celebration, on the grounds that... "none of you are in any way Irish!"

Then he got home and found his wife had baked Irish soda bread... ggg

19 March, 2007  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Anna, this laughing at soda bread is a dangerous business, if my soda bread is anything to go by.

It actually has the heft of a brick and could do serious damage should the baker wish to make a point by, say, hurling it at the laughing person.

Not that I should wish Husband to be buffeted about the head by a brick, er, loaf of soda bread! No, not at all.

I think I'll use less whole wheat flour next time!

19 March, 2007  
Blogger Annie West said...


What a woman - cooking under the scrutiny of two hungry men and a kiwi! I call that cooking under stress.


19 March, 2007  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Perhaps it helps that one of the men is fictional! Not that it keeps him being any less opinionated.

The Prof was pleased with the results, though. It is a bit chewy, however. Chewier than the Ballyvolane version. Because the days aren't as "soft" here? I wonder.


19 March, 2007  
Anonymous anne frasier said...

ooh, yum.

19 March, 2007  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Wish you were here, Anne. You could have a piece (or ten). We've plenty!

19 March, 2007  
Blogger Anne said...

Anne, your soda bread might be heavier than the Irish version you tried because you may have kneaded it too much.

Irish soda bread is a lot like Australian damper, and the rule with damper is to handle the mix as little as possible -- just enough to combine the mix. It's like scones (and also gnocchi) -- in fact my Irish grandmother used to use a knife for mixing her scones, which were famously delicious and light.

20 March, 2007  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...


I didn't knead it at all because it was too wet to knead. Definitely more of a batter. I wondered about that when I was mixing it because when I make scones I have a much firmer dough that, yes, I handle as little as possible.

We'll give this a try again and see what happens. It tasted wonderful. It was just the consistency that made me wonder about it.

20 March, 2007  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home