Irish Soda Bread

I decided randomly one afternoon while working from home that I wanted to make a nice crusty loaf of artisan bread.  I was all ready to go when I realized my yeast was expired.  Not just a little, but a lot expired.  I guess it’s been awhile since I made bread.

So I turned to Pinterest to search for a bread recipe that did not require yeast, and I was reminded of the fact that Irish Soda Bread does not use yeast.  And, since it is just 2 days before St. Patrick’s Day, it seemed like a no-brainer:  I had to make Irish Soda Bread.

I read through half a dozen different recipes:  with raisins or currants or caraway seeds, or none of the above; with varying amounts of butter, buttermilk, and eggs.  I opted for no seeds or dried fruit since my original intent was a plain artisan bread.  Then, I decided to start with a recipe I found on Cincyshopper.com  modifying it slightly based on the ingredients I had on hand.

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My husband is dairy-free and I’m lactose-intolerant, so we don’t have regular milk in the house – we usually just have almond and sometimes coconut milk on hand.  So instead of using buttermilk, I subbed almond milk mixed with apple cider vinegar.  The vinegar sours the milk and makes it *kind of* like buttermilk, and voila:  dairy-free buttermilk.  Also, I didn’t have any real butter on hand because I used all of it when I made my Lemon Cupcakes last weekend, so I subbed out the butter with dairy-free margarine.  I am certain this recipe is fabulous with REAL dairy products, but that just wasn’t happening today!

 

I found that the dough was a bit dry, so I added just a teensy bit more liquid than the original recipe calls for as I was kneading it.  And it seemed like 1/4 cup of butter and 1/4 cup of buttermilk was a lot of liquid to brush on top of the bed, so I used 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of my homemade DF buttermilk.

 

I baked it on a parchment lined cookie sheet at 375 degrees on the regular bake setting in my oven.  I have an LG Studio double oven and I have to tell you, it is super cool.  It has several different settings including Bake, Broil, Roast, Convection Bake, Convection Roast, Crisp Convection, Warm, and Proof.  I was looking forward to trying out the Proof setting while letting my artisan bread rise, but since my yeast was dead and I went another route, that will have to wait until another time.

While the bread was baking I looked up soda bread on Wikipedia (because I’m a nerd) and learned that I should have consulted Wikipedia BEFORE baking my bread.  First, I found that you can also replace the buttermilk with yogurt or stout beer.  I only had fruity flavors of Greek yogurt on hand, which definitely would not have worked, and while I didn’t have any stout, I did have some Red Stripe in the fridge.  I’m betting that may have worked as well but I don’t know about mixing Jamaican beer with Irish bread right before St. Patty’s Day!  *Side note:  now I have a picture in my head of a dreadlocked guy with a “Pinch Me I’m Irish-ish” shirt on saying, “Everyone’s after me Lucky Charms!”  with a full-on Jamaican accent.  There’s something wrong with me, I know.  One thing I wish I had read in advance was that you should use minimal mixing, and no kneading of the bread because the leavening action begins when the buttermilk interacts with the baking soda and you don’t want to hinder that by over-mixing.  So now I think I may have kneaded the dough too much.

There was some additional interesting info about the origins of soda breads and variations in different countries, but I’ll let you read up on that on your own if you wish.

The bread smelled wonderful while it was baking.  I removed it after exactly 45 minutes – the top was just beginning to turn golden brown.  I let it rest on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then moved it to a cooling rack for about 15 minutes before cutting into it.  My puppy was going nuts while it was cooling – he couldn’t wait to dig in!  (He loved it)

 

It probably could have stayed in the oven another 5 minutes, as it was just a tad doughy in the very center of the bread, but I’m sure that will be remedied a slice at a time in the toaster.  I’m also wondering if I had let it rest on the cookie sheet a bit longer – say 15 minutes – if it would have continued to cook in the center…?  And, of course I’m wondering if the over-kneading had anything to do with it.  I will experiment with those variables next time.

 

The bread was delicious plain with nothing on it – it has a slightly salty taste.  It was also equally delicious with a little butter, and with some jam.  I may have to freeze half of this so I don’t eat the entire loaf myself this weekend!  My dairy-free recipe is below, or head over to Cincyshopper.com  for the original recipe.

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Dairy-free Irish Soda Bread

1 1/4 cups dairy-free almond milk
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 cups flour
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dairy-free margarine at room temperature
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons dairy-free margarine, melted

Pour the milk into a 2-cup measuring cup, then remove 1 1/2 tablespoons of it.  Replace that liquid with 1 1/2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and set it aside.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Stir the milk and vinegar mixture.  Add the margarine, egg, and just 1 cup of the curdled milk, reserving 1/4 cup.  Using a large wooden spoon, mix the ingredients, then as the dough starts to come together, use your hands to finish mixing in all of the ingredients.  Do not over-mix the dough or knead it very much; mix just to the point of it coming together into a ball, but with the flour incorporated.  If the dough is too dry, add additional milk from the reserved amount, one teaspoon at a time.

Form the dough into a ball and place on a parchment covered cookie sheet.  Using a sharp knife, cut a shallow X on top of the dough.  Mix the melted margarine into the remaining milk mixture, stir, and brush over the entire ball of dough.  Bake in a pre-heated 375 oven for 45 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool on the cookie sheet for 5-10 minutes, then move to a cooling rack for 15-20 minutes.  Cut with a serrated knife and serve warm.

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