It’s been more than a year now since we haven’t bought industrially baked bread. Except for occasional artisan bread we buy from time to time, all the other bread we eat is the one I bake myself. Making bread however, is time consuming and having it freshly baked for dinner, warm and steaming, is not always possible (well, at least not for me).
So, when I’m tight with time, the Irish soda bread is my savior. No kneading, no waiting for it to rise, no proofing. And to make it even faster I make small breads that bake quicker than a single loaf.
I had tried a few recipes before, but I’m so convinced by the results and the taste this recipe delivers that I’m sticking to it because it really works perfectly for us. I found the recipe and everything there is to know about the Irish soda bread here.
I usually prepare this bread just for two of us, which means I use half of the ingredients in the original recipe. I particularly love the small warm bread cut in half, with a generous portion of freshly grated Parmesan, melting slightly from the inside heat. Try it this way and you’ll come again to thank me, I promise.
Yield: 4 medium sized individual breads
Prep & baking time: 40-45 minutes
230g (2 & 1/3 cups) all-purpose flour ½ tsp salt ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
130 -150ml (1/2 cup) buttermilk*
*Buttermilk works better in this recipe, because its acidity helps activate the bicarbonate of soda, releasing the bubbles that make the bread rise. As I can’t get real buttermilk where we live, I usually sour some plain whole fat milk – you just need to add a ½ tsp of lemon juice to the milk, whisk and leave it for 10 minutes. Of course, you can use plain milk, but in this case you need to add ¼ tsp of baking powder to the recipe.
Depending on the humidity you may need to adjust the buttermilk quantity (130ml – 150ml) to achieve soft and sticky dough.
Preheat the oven to 230 C/450 F and prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or a silicon mat).
Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt twice, to be sure the soda is evenly distributed. Put the mixture in a big bowl and make a well in the center. Pour ¾ of the buttermilk (or the liquid you use) in and stir.
When the dough looks like this, dust you hands with some flour and knead it briefly
Stirring is actually the key for this recipe. Otherwise said: make sure you don’t over stir. You want very soft and sticky dough, but not a smooth one. Dryish looking lumps are ok, but if you need more liquid, add the rest of the buttermilk.
Blend until the dough is evenly lumpy, but be careful not to work it too vigorously – you don’t want to develop the gluten and have bread that is too hard.
Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for just 15 seconds. As it is really sticky you better flour your hands and the dough well and just press it few times.
Divide the dough in 4, and briefly form slightly flattened hemispheres. With a very sharp knife cut a cross on top of the soda breads – the cut should go halfway down through the sides of the circle to let the bread expand as it rises in the oven.
Put the baking sheet in the preheated oven – it is important to have the oven really hot at this point. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 230C/450F, and then lower the heat to 200C/400F for 10 more minutes. Make sure you don’t open the oven’s door during first 15 minutes of baking. The breads are ready when tapping the bottom sounds hollow.
Arrange the breads on a rack to slightly cool for 10 minutes or just until you can handle them. If you want a soft crust, instead of putting them on a rack, wrap in a clean dishcloth right after taking them out the oven.