2 simple soda bread recipes to savour

If you're craving a satisfying side dish for savoury soups and stews, consider a classic: soda bread. This age-old bread is beloved for its heartiness and simplicity, here are two basic recipes to try.

2 simple soda bread recipes to savour

The original soda breads

In the early days of European settlement, travellers often survived largely on meals of tea and soda bread.

  • The original soda breads were made from plain flour and water with perhaps a ­little added salt
  • The dough was kneaded into a flat circular shape about six centimetres (2 1/2 inches) thick
  • Dough was placed in a hole in the hot ashes of the campfire
  • Ashes were raked over the top to keep out air and so prevent the dough burning
  • After about 30 minutes, tiny cracks caused by the escaping steam would appear on the surface
  • The soda bread was done if it sounded hollow when tapped with a stick.
  • In time, people began adding a rising agent to the dough that made it lighter and more digestible.
  • Soda bread was often cooked in a camp oven — a large covered iron pot on three legs — that protected it from the ashes
  • Dripping or lard was sometimes part of the mixture, and milk, sour milk or buttermilk might be substituted for the water

1. How to make a modern-day soda bread

Over the years, cooks have adapted the traditional soda bread recipe in numerous ways. In today's kitchens, the simplest way to take care of the requirement for a rising agent is to use self-raising flour. Replacing water with alittle oil and buttermilk is another option, and makes for a tasty, moist soda bread.

Ingredients:

  • 275 to 500 g (1 1/4 to2 c) self-raising flour
  • 275 to 750 g (1 1/4 to3 c) salad oil
  • 400 to 500 ml (1 3/4 to2 c) buttermilk

Directions:

  • Mix the dry ingredients together in a bow
  • Pour salad oil and buttermilk into a well in the centre of the flour and mix to a soft dough
  • Knead lightly on a floured surface
  • Form into a ball
  • Flatten slightly, place on a floured tray, and lightly dust the top with flour
  • Bake in a hot oven (200°C or 400°F) for 25 to 30 minutes or until well risen and golden brown
  • Cover loaf with a clean tea towel and cool on a wire rack

2. Using beer in soda bread

The use of beer as the liquid ingredient in this recipe produces a robust soda bread, which makes an excellent accompaniment to stew.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg (4 c) self-raising flour
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) melted butter or margarine
  • 375 ml (1 1/2 c) beer

Directions:

  • Sift flour into a bowl
  • Make a well in the centre and pour in the butter or margarine and the beer
  • Mix to a soft dough adding a little extra flour if necessary
  • Knead the dough into a ball on a lightly floured surface
  • Place dough on a tray and flatten slightly
  • Bake in a hot oven (200°C or 400°F) for 25 to 30 minutes or until the soda bread is well risen and brown

Though the ingredients and methods for preparing them have changed over time, soda breads remain a beloved and tasty comfort food. Try one the next time you're looking for a satisfying but simple accompaniment to your favourite meal.

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