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