Monday, 19 September 2011

Irish Soda Bread

Between checking on my family tree and writing about memories of ‘growing up’ my taste buds started watering for Irish Soda Bread.   Well it’s some time since I made this under the watchful eye of my Mum but like in life - if you don’t have a go – you’ll never know.
When I watched my Mum she never used weighing scales and I remember her just using her hands to bring the flour; baking soda; salt; sugar and buttermilk together.   Sometimes she would add fruit or treacle to the mix just to make a change.   I’m sure the purists wouldn’t have approved.   The beauty of Irish Soda Bread though is that it can be made within an hour.
In one of my earlier posts I gave you a tour of my Mum’s house on Cruit Island and talked about cooking in large pots over the fire.   My Aunt Lizzie was the only one of my Mum’s sisters who stayed on the island with my grandfather and from her I remember churning milk / cream to make butter.   This was done in the butter churn which was a wooden tub that had a wooden lid with a hole in the middle.   Before putting the lid into the top of the butter churn the plunger was fitted through the hole in the middle. 
 In order to make butter from the milk the plunger was pushed up and down to turn the milk into cream.   I do remember my arms getting sore and tired from pushing and pulling the plunger up and down and I probably didn’t do it very long.   At some point I can remember my Aunt Lizzie drawing off liquid – buttermilk to use in baking.   Once the butter was ready it was patted into squares using wooden paddles with ridges on them and wrapped in greased paper.
Well enough reminiscing – let’s get to it and make soda bread.
I decided that I wouldn’t just rely on memory and so searched for a recipe which was like my Mum’s and I found one by Rachel Allen:
450g (1lb) plain flour
1 level tsp caster sugar
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
350-425ml (12-15fl oz) buttermilk or sour milk

1. Preheat the oven to 230°C (425°F), Gas mark 8.
2. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in most of the buttermilk (leaving about 60ml/2fl oz in the measuring jug). Using one hand with your fingers outstretched like a claw, bring the flour and liquid together, adding more buttermilk if necessary. Do not knead the mixture or it will become heavy. The dough should be fairly soft, but not too wet and sticky.
3. When it comes together, turn onto a floured work surface and bring together a little more. Pat the dough into a round about 4cm (1½in) deep and cut a deep cross in it.
4. Place on a baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 200°C (400°F), Gas mark 6 and cook for 30 minutes more. When cooked, the loaf will sound slightly hollow when tapped on the base and be golden in colour. I often turn it upside down for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

I’m pleased to report that the result was a success which I enjoyed with butter and apricot preserve.

Lovely crunchy crust and ready to eat - one slice is never enough!

1 comment:

  1. Now you've made MY mouth water - how nice it would be to get your bread and my jam together! Axxx


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