Friday, June 17, 2011

Babes go Irish and Bake Soda Bread

IMG_3586Leave it to me to postpone and be late with the one bread we Babes bake that takes 1 hour from weighing the flour to hot on the table!
Anyway, here we are and look at that! Rustic, lovely crust and a lovely crumb as well. This is the one Ilva had us bake up for the month of July.
A White Irish Soda bread with herbs. (In my case: sans herbs because I forgot to add them). Rising agent is baking soda (yes, that’ll be me, I’m quite the rising agent you know). The liquid in this bread is buttermilk to help the baking soda along. (In my case it’s half and half yoghurt and milk because I was fresh out of buttermilk).

IMG_3589 This is what I was supposed to do (and what you’ll need to do to earn that grand Buddy Badge!)
WHITE SODA BREAD WITH HERBS from The Ballymaloe Bread Book by Tim Allen
1 loaf
450 g/1lb plain white four
1 level teaspoon salt
1 level teaspoon bread soda, finely sieved
1 dessert spoon each of rosemary, sage and chives, all freshly chopped
400 ml/ 14 fl oz buttermilk
Heat up the oven to 230 degrees C/450 degrees F
Sieve the flour, salt and bread soda into a large, wide mixing bowl. Add the freshly chopped herbs to the dry ingredients.
Make a well in the centre. Pour most of the milk into the flour. Using one hand with the fingers open and stiff, mix in a full circle drawing in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky.
The trick with all soda breads is not to over-mix the dough. Mix the dough as quickly and as gently as possible, keeping it really light and airy. When the dough comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface. Wash and dry your hands.
Gently roll the ball of dough around with floury hands for a few seconds, just enough to tidy up. Then pat it gently into a round, about 5 cm/2 in high.
Place the dough on a lightly floured baking sheet. With a sharp knife cut a deep cross in the middle of it, letting the cuts go over the sides of the bread. Then prick the four triangles with your knife: according to Irish folklore this will let the fairies out!
Put this into your preheated oven for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 200 degrees C/400 degrees F for a further 25 minutes, or until cooked. When the bread is cooked it will sound hollow when tapped.
My notes:
- Have to admit I was a little apprehensive. I have baked soda bread before and although I love the process, the crust and the crumbly interior -especially with soup- there ‘s that faint smell of baking soda. And the taste! At the same time that I was enjoying the bread I could taste chemicals. Not good.
The first bite, bread still luke warm, and there it was. Baking Soda taste and smell and I thought Lien, I’m with you! No genetic stuff, we’re not related ;-) and cilantro tastes fine to me.
Strange enough I do like the bread, had a slice this afternoon with a bit of butter and jam. Nice!
- This recipe produced the best rising results and the airiest crumb that I had in soda breads.
- Baked the prescribed 10 minutes on 230C and then used the steam plus oven setting for the remaining 25 minutes on 200C. Great result.
Thanks Ilva for bringing Soda Bread back in my head again!


  1. Yay, Karen!! You baked the bread! And I'm so thrilled that you used yoghurt instead of buttermilk (now I know that it does indeed work). And how funny. I wanted to forget the herbs. I was nervous that they wouldn't belong at all. (Of course, they were a very nice addition.)

    How strange that both you and Lien can taste the baking soda! Is there something strange about European bicarbonate of soda? (No wait, it must be like the cilantro thing because neither Ilva nor Astrid mentioned it...)

    It's good to know that the bread tastes fine with butter and jam though.

  2. It really is very nice! I think it might be the soda because I really like cilantro!

  3. Lovely loaf! And that ham looks really tasty with it too, making me wish I had some to go with my leftover loaf!

  4. Yup, it's the soda. I got used to it after many soda breads. And I like mine with cinnamon, bit of sugar and sultanas. :-)

    You could use baking powder and milk. Baking powder contains baking soda and a sour ingredient like cream of tartar (wijnsteenzuur). So no need for buttermilk or yoghurt.
    something like this:
    No more baking soda smell...

    Like your blog, reading along for sometime, never commented but just too much of a soda bread fan.

  5. Your loaf looks grand Karen. I tried the whole wheat pastry flour, golden raisins and cranberry yesterday morning ... unfortunately I was having a non reading day and only added 12 oz (1 cup) of buttermilk instead of the 14 oz called for ... a dyslectic senior moment. It was rather brick like BUT the golden raisins and cranberry were really spot on great. I'm going to see if I can get my act together this morning and get the buttermilk right.

    I believe that by definition baking powder is baking soda with cream of tarter. I'm unsure how that effects this chemical taste/smell thing. I could just be a personal thing we either like or don't but ...

  6. I've never noticed an off-taste from soda - and I use it lots for quick breads.... Of course, I can't abide cilantro ;-)) Hmmmm... Looks lovely with the ham and will be great with soup.

  7. Ha my babe-sister, again we feel the same! So glad it wasn't me and my hypersensitive nose, but we can blame it on the baking soda (not you that is!!). It's not that Dutch baking soda is the cause eiter, as I used German baking soda.
    Glad you liked it anyway, it's so sad to have to bin good ingredients. Good idea from Superheidi, next time I'll just use baking powder, learning here, which is always a good thing.

  8. Thanks Superheidi; for reading me and for the tip! Will try again with just milk and baking powder and see what happens!

  9. @Tanna: I used less of the yoghurt/milk combination than what was called for so... Really would like to do a raisin one as well

    @Lien; isn't that strange that we both get the same thing? Already thought you had some "foreign" baking soda, so that's not to blame either. Hmmm intriguing!

  10. The baking sodas I used were British or Turkish (Turkish supermarket). They all had the same typical aroma that some people can't stand.

    And it's great for many other things, like getting rid of ink stains on your tabletop. :-)

  11. An Irish lass here... well born here of Dutch/English heritage. The smell of soda bread and scones baking is the smell of summer evenings when my family had a B&B.
    My school teacher taught me to use cream of tartar and milk as a substitute for buttermilk. The cream of tartar is acidic and the bread soda is alkaline. When they mix in a liquid they produce carbon-dioxide... the gas to raise the dough. Technically any acid will do, even vinegar (though I suspect that wouldn't taste too good)

  12. Even though you say you're not related, I think it must be something in your Dutch genes :) Looks beautiful, anyway -- perfect crumb!

  13. Sorry I couldn't come up with a bread that made you make it in NO time but on the other hand, this is a close as you can get. Wish I had that oven of yours....

  14. It looks so yummy and i know it also does tastes good. Thanks for posting and for sharing your wonderful ingredients and procedure. i know a lot of your viewers tried doing this. Nice post!

  15. Lovely bread Karen! I am still wondering about that baking soda & smell thing. funny it only affected the Dutch Babes,... xoxo

  16. How could you not bake the baking soda bread? It's got your name in it! It looks beautifully rustic. Your oven has a steam setting? How cool is that!


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