Traditional Brown Irish Soda Bread
This Saint Patrick's Day-inspired recipe comes from our dear friend Darina Allen, the undisputed doyenne of Irish cuisine and the founder of Ballymaloe Cookery School in East Cork, Ireland. Ballymaloe is of the most respected culinary teaching institutions in the world and has supplied the kitchens of the finest restaurants across Europe with young cooks.
One of the delights of eating in Ireland is the ubiquity of this humble loaf, at once nourishing and exceptionally easy to bake. It comes together very quickly, using very few ingredients, and is especially flavorful when made with a whole wheat flour like our Organic Central Red from Full Belly Farm. Use our clay bread cloche for a perfect loaf (though it's not strictly essential!)
Makes 1 loaf
2 cups brown whole wheat flour (preferably stone-ground like Organic Central Red Whole Wheat Flour from Full Belly Farm)
2 cups white flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 level teaspoon baking soda, sieved
2 tablespoons butter, melted or 2 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
First preheat the oven to 450°F. Once heated, preheat your bread cloche in the oven for about a half hour. Make the bread while the cloche is heating.
Start by dusting your work surface with a slight handful whole wheat flour.
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large wide bowl, rub in the butter (if using cream, add to the buttermilk). Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk.
Using one hand, stir in a full circle starting in the center of the bowl and working towards the outside until all the flour is incorporated. The dough should be soft but not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, a matter of seconds, turn it out onto a well-floured board. Do not overwork the dough!
Wash and dry your hands thoroughly. Coat your hands lightly in flour and the dough gently for a second, just enough to tidy it up. Flip it over and flatten it slightly to about 2 inches.
Using a large sharp knife, mark the surface with a deep cross and prick in each corner to "let the fairies out of the bread" (as Darina always likes to say).
Take the cloche carefully out of the oven, uncover it, dust the interior with a sprinkle of whole wheat flour and lay the loaf gently into the cloche.
Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 400°F and cook for a further 20 minutes. Remove the cloche lid and bake for another 15-20 minutes until the top is golden brown.
Remove the loaf from the cloche and tap it on both sides. It should sound hollow. Cool slightly on a wire rack, wrapped in a clean linen towel while hot if you prefer a softer crust. Best in the hours after you've baked it, soda bread should be eaten within 2-3 days, perfect for a weekend.
Serve with a generous slathering of butter and seasonal jam.