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Irish Whole-Wheat Soda Bread

Irish Whole-Wheat Soda BreadTraditionally, soda bread is baked over a peat fire in a three legged iron pot that is raised and lowered over the fire the old-fashioned way. Soda bread is very different from any other bread you can find in the world. It's round with a criss-cross cut in the top, possesses a velvety texture--quite unlike yeast bread, and has the most distinctive and delicious taste. Sliced paper thin and buttered, it makes an excellent tea or breakfast bread as well as toast for any meal.

Recipe Ingredients:

3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 to 2 cups buttermilk

Cooking Directions:

  1. Combine the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly to distribute the soda and baking powder, then add enough buttermilk to make a soft dough, similar in quality to biscuit dough but firm enough to hold its shape. Knead on a lightly floured board, for 2 to 3 minutes, until quite smooth and velvety.
  2. Form into a round loaf and place in a greased 8-inch cake pan or on a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet. Cut a cross on the top of the loaf with a very sharp floured knife.
  3. Bake in a preheated 375°F (190°C) oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until loaf is nicely browned and sounds hollow when tapped. (The cross will have spread open, which is characteristic of soda bread.) Let the loaf cool before slicing very thin, soda bread must never be cut thick.

Makes 1 (8-inch) loaf.

Variation: For white soda bread, use 4 cups all-purpose flour, preferably unbleached, and the same amounts of salt and baking powder called for in the master recipe, but decrease the baking soda to 3/4 teaspoon. Otherwise, the bread is prepared in exactly the same way as in the master recipe.

Recipe Source: James A. Beard's "Beard on Bread" (1973).