Thursday, March 19, 2015

Another Soda Bread Recipe

I wrote a few days ago (the day before St Paddy's) about my take on Irish Brown Bread, or Soda Bread. Which turned out so wonderful, by the way, that I was just itching to try another recipe, this time using some barley flour. Since the loaf made a few days back is down to the last two slices remaining, I made a second loaf this morning. It was in the oven before I sat down to breakfast.
New this morning: Barley Flour Soda Bread

I will tell you why I so loved this first bread that I had to make a second loaf so soon after: It is moist and dense, chewy but not hard, smells sweet, somewhat like molasses, though there is none in the recipe, toasts beautifully, tastes great just with butter, goes excellently with stew (or eggs for breakfast, or a sandwich for lunch, if sliced thinly and for a lot more things, I am sure). I imagine you get my drift. I really loved this bread. And it is almost instant gratification. Only baking soda in the recipe, means no waiting for the bread to rise. 

Not that I have a problem with waiting for breads to rise. I have been making yeast breads for almost 45 years. I am well-used to the waiting part!

Irish Brown Bread with oats making little lines
As I mentioned in the blog on the first Irish Brown Bread, since I have an electric grain mill, I wanted to try this with barley flour. Not all barley flour, but just some. In that first bread, I used mostly whole wheat flour, with some all-purpose flour and cake flour, and then added in some toasted wheat germ and rolled oats. The oats caused the bread (seen at right) to have little lines running through the cut slices, which is no problem whatsoever. Still, this time I milled some whole pearled barley (the long-cooking kind) and wheat berries, and used all-purpose flour and cake flour as the other flours. No extra additions. I was tempted to add currants, but opted out at last minute. What I do need to do is find a source for some soft wheat rather than only the hard red wheat I currently have. That is for another day.

Once my second attempt this morning cooled enough to slice, I tasted a tiny corner (I had just finished with breakfast, but wanted to get some idea of flavor differences). I find that this one smells less of molasses (maybe it was the toasted wheat germ giving that flavor?) and has a more straightforward whole-grain flavor, but it is still nice and dense, moist and chewy, so I am very content. I might be on this kick for Soda Breads for a while, at this rate!

Barley Flour Soda Bread
And then this morning, reading further on soda breads, and other things, I came on a site that talked of bicarbonate really first being used in the early American colonies in the later 1700s. So, how "original to Ireland" is Irish "Soda" Bread? Who knows? None of this really matters. What matters is that these breads come out so wonderfully good. Soda breads are known in many countries, including Serbia, from where my paternal grandparents haled (then Yugoslavia). I had no clue. Grandma never made soda bread, to my recollection. I believe she did occasionally make yeast bread, but that was not her "thing". Her thing was making pastries: rich, full of lard, flaky, not-too-sweet pastries. I can still taste them in my mind, though the last time I ate her pastries was in the early 1970s.  They were truly memorable. Who cares if bread baking was not her thing!?

Long and short, if you have the ability to grind barley and wheat, these breads, or any using whole grain flour, taste immeasurably better if the grain is freshly ground. Store-bought whole wheat flour has always tasted awful to me, and now I realize that this is because, once ground, the germ goes rancid very quickly. I would not recommend making these recipes of mine unless you have a grain mill of some kind and can grind your own fresh grain. This is what I did this morning:
Barley Flour Soda Bread

Barley Flour Soda Bread
makes one loaf

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup whole grain barley flour
1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside. In a large mixing bowl stir together all the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and pour in all the buttermilk. Stir, beginning in the center, with a wooden spoon, gradually incorporating all the dry ingredients, until no dry remains. Turn the mixture out onto a floured surface and "knead" gently by patting out the dough, folding it in half, flattening and folding, about 8 to 10 times. Form into a round loaf approximately 8-inches in diameter and 2-inches high. Set it in the prepared baking sheet. Cut a large "X" across the top (this allows for easier expansion and helps to have the loaf baked through in the center). Bake the loaf for about 50 to 60 minutes, until nicely golden and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. If an instant read thermometer is among your kitchen gadgetry, the loaf should read at least 185 to 190 degrees in the center. Cool completely on a rack before cutting. 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.