Soda bread is really a recipe to have in your pocket. Serving a nice, warm loaf of homemade bread at a moment’s notice is serious kitchen magic. And I’ve made the process for making Irish soda bread even easier by letting the mixer do the work. Soda bread is substantial and hearty – the perfect partner for soup or stew, or corned beef and cabbage. Good butter melting into its nooks and crannies, or a thick layer of jam holding its crumb together, or a leftover slice spread with chutney and a slice of tangy cheddar is a memorable afternoon snack.
At first, I imagined that a traditional Irish farm wife would have considered my method sacrilege – using the mixer, not carefully forming the loaf by hand. But then I had another thought. Soda bread was born of necessity, a quick way to satisfy the family with the staple ingredients to hand. I have read in many cookbooks and novels over the years about women who made a loaf of soda bread every single morning. They could do it by feel, no measuring, no thinking; just churning out delicious loafs of hearty bread day after day after day. So maybe the option of making the process a little quicker would have appealed greatly, anything to make the long day a little less trouble. After all, it’s still only one bowl to clean.
Simple Soda Bread
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 ¼ cups buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan with non-stick spray.
Drop the flours, soda and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix briefly. Cut the butter into small pieces and drop into the flour. Mix briefly until the butter is distributed and the flour is slightly sticky. Stop the mixer and dump in all the buttermilk. Turn the mixer on medium and mix until the dough is just combined. It will be a very wet dough.
Turn the dough out into the prepared cake pan. Don’t worry about it fitting to the edges of the pan, it will spread if it wants to. Just make a nice even round in the center. This is a bread meant to be a little rough and tumble. Sprinkle a bit of flour over the top of the loaf, and then with a sharp knife, cut a cross in the center of the loaf. The dough is wet, so it may take a few passes with the blade to get the slashes to stay. This step is said to let the fairies out of the loaf.
Bake the bread for 15 – 20 minutes, until it is golden brown, risen and has a hollow sound when tapped. Remove the loaf from the oven and immediately turn it out onto a large, clean tea towel. Tap the bottom to double-check for the hollow sound. Wrap the loaf in the tea towel and leave to cool for ten minutes. Wrapping the loaf will keep the crust of the bread tender.
Slice and serve the warm bread. Leftovers will keep for a day tightly wrapped.