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Fisherman’s Blues: Coming Home to Soda Bread Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Posted by Grace in from the kitchen, marble & holly.
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My Grandma, a transplanted product of the Green Isle, has never served a meal I’ve attended without soda bread. My mom, who isn’t Irish at all, tells stories about meeting my father’s family and wondering why they always ate that ‘funny, dense, nutty bread.’ It’s tradition that Grandma has just never let go of.

I learned to make this bread standing on a chair at the counter beside her, listening to stories of about my grandfather, her husband, who worked on ships before they came here, and how he would come home smelling of salt in the evening for a warm meal with this ubiquitous bread.

Not being in that household for every meal, the habit of eating it with every meal hasn’t been instilled in me to its full extent, but there is little else so comfortable as a thick slice of soda bread, warm from the oven, with some butter or some home made jam.

Grandma’s Brown Soda Bread

1 C All-purpose flour

1 C Wholemeal flour

3/4 C Rolled oats

1 1/2 tsp Baking soda

1 1/2 tsp Caraway seeds

1/2 tsp Salt

1/2 C Cold butter, cubed

1 C Buttermilk

2 Tbsp Molasses

In a large bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients (that would be the first six, for those of you who may wonder). Add butter cubes, and use two knives to cut it in until mixture gets fine crumbs.

In a different bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and molasses, and then add to the dry ingredients. I suppose you don’t have to mix the two together beforehand, but doing so lets the molasses distribute evenly. Mix together just until combined; do not overwork!

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough 8-10 turns, just to even it out. Form into a round loaf, and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cut a cross into the top of the loaf, and bake at 375 until the edges go golden and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Those are the cooking rules I’ve been told, but it generally takes about 45 minutes.

Often, soda bread comes with raisins, it just depends what you’re eating it with. If you want the raisins, add a handful in the mixing process before you start kneading.

I have found that substitutions for the buttermilk do not go over well, as the loaf won’t turn out with the gorgeous tender crumb that soda bread is famous for. Also, after some conversations with non-family members, I’ve learned that molasses isn’t the most common ingredient to use in soda bread, and have tried other recipes without, but this is the one I’ve been raised on, so I’m sticking to it.

Song of the Day: Fisherman’s Blues – Kilt

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