Irish Soda Bread

The Before:

After a serious drought of bread baking I have returned! For my much anticipated (don’t laugh) second recipe I’ll be doing James Beard’s Irish Whole-Wheat Soda Bread.

Now I know what you’re thinking (really), I was supposed to go in order through Beard on Bread. But here’s the thing: I don’t want to. Because I really want Soda Bread.

This bread is actually one I’ve made before, I’ll be honest, just not this recipe. It’s not a yeast bread so it never scared me, and as such was the only bread I had ever successfully made before this whole endeavor began. This is probably because you can only find it in stores around St. Patrick’s day, and that was just not on. Because, like you may have noticed, I really fucking love Irish Soda Bread.

You may be wondering what prompted my return to bread (it’s not just soda bread and then a 5 month absence again, I promise), and I really want to give some profound reasoning here. But instead I’m going to be honest; I’ve been binge-watching The Great British Baking Show. Honestly, watching brits bake in a country side tent is so much more inspiring than I ever knew it could be.

The During:

This recipe is very simple:

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

Quick side note: You should probably check to make sure you have all the ingredients before you try to start, that way you won’t have to walk to the store for baking soda. Hypothetically of course.

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Bread Pre-Bake (note the rustic food aesthetic)

First you combine all the dry ingredients, then add the buttermilk and mix to consistency. Then knead (which will always be my favorite part) until a velvety texture and pop it in the over on a buttered sheet. Super simple stuff.

It’s also noted by Beard that this bread must be sliced paper thin, for soda bread should never be sliced thickly. Thanks James.

Now that my bread is baking (for about 35 minutes) I can do my dishes (a shocker for anyone who actually knows me) and figure out what to make for dinner that goes well with Whole-Wheat Soda Bread (everything according to Beard).

 

The After:

Alright, bread is done. It took longer than the 35 minutes by about about 10 minutes, but patience is a virtue after all (one I seriously lack, by the way–this is probably why bread making was never my forte in the past).

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Look at that butter. Look at it!

 

I was so impatient that I had the hardest time waiting for it to cool long enough so it didn’t burn me when I sliced it to taste (yes I made it for dinner, but I could hardly resist a little snack beforehand).

The familiar flavor of soda bread was a welcome taste, which I think makes it a success. The butter melted beautifully and the texture was so good I may have cried a little (just kidding…maybe). In fact I might write a sonnet about this bread one day. Honestly, I probably love fat and carbs more than Thor loves killing giants (read: a lot).

 

 

Basic White Bread (for the Basic White Girl)

The Before

It is no secret amongst my family that bread has never exactly been my strong suit in the kitchen. My uncle likes to recall a particular thanksgiving at which I made the rolls; the term hockey pucks was a teasing (albeit accurate) description of my results. This being said, I am never one to back down from a challenge, and I proclaimed earlier this summer that this would be the fall that I finally “conquer bread.” (Me competitive? Never.) So here I am, starting with the beginners recipe of Basic White Bread.

Luckily James Beard was aware that not all who attempt his collection of recipes have winning records and, with this in mind, his first recipe in Beard on Bread details every move I need to make in order to successfully create. Honestly, this recipe is about 5 pages long, not including the notes on variations and disastrous results at the end. Because I have some experience in the kitchen, I feel confident in my first attempt; because I’m pretty sure that yeast can smell over confidence like a dog can smell fear, this is possibly going to blow up in my face.

The During

First Rising : I have currently gotten my bread through the first stage, and it sits in a warm stable place going through its first rise. I have a bread proofing button on my new oven, but I’m scared to use it. I got flour all over the place and I’m pretty sure there’s going to be dough under my finger nails for a week. I had planned to take pictures of my process, however I underestimated the amount of goo I would have on my hands at any given moment and failed at that endeavor (seriously, so. much. sticky. dough). I’ll need to call for back up in the future.

 

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The dough pre second kneading

Second Rising : I now wait while my bread undergoes its second and final rising in the baking pans. So far so good, at least as much as I can tell. The final verdict will come after the baking and it’s determined whether or not anyone wants to actually consume the loaves I’ve created. I’m making two smaller loaves, rather than one big one, so that I may test out variations in slashing and coating the dough (exciting stuff, I know).

 


Turns out that waiting to see if your dough rises properly the second time is very nerve-wracking stuff (then again I seem to be able to make most activities nerve-wracking).


And thus my babies are safe and in the oven (they smell good, if that’s any indication). In about half an hour I will know the boundaries of my success, until then I plan to keep my fingers crossed (metaphorically, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to type this).

The After

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Egg and milk wash on the left, cold water wash on the right

I am pretty proud of my first attempt at bread. The loaves were a little dense, but not to the point of problematic, and the taste was simply delightful. I’m going to need to work a little on just trusting the process and letting them rise in the future, to prevent further issues of density.

 

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Basic white bread featuring beautiful butter

 

 

While not the prettiest of bread, it was really rather tasty. I’ll work on appearance in future recipes, but for now I must admit that I am particularly proud of myself.

 

 

I enjoyed my first slice with a hearty smear of Irish butter (because Kerrigold is my go to for special occasion butter scenarios), and I savored every bite of my hard work.