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Irish Soda Bread
#1
The following was copied out of John McKenna's amazing book: How to Succeed in Hospitality. I bought this for the practical info on hospitality management and the recipes in the book were a very welcome boon.

What follows here is some basic info on how to make the perfect soda bread, more specific recipes will follow.

Irish Soda Bread

Soda bread is the Irish bread, the single most important unique selling point of the traditional Irish breakfast. The mixture of bread soda and buttermilk makes for a loaf that is singular and distinct, and delicious. It is also simple to make, and inexpensive.

The secret with soda bread is to leave it well alone: soda bread needs little work and a light hand. It is, truly, a loaf where the ingredients conspire together to do the magic, and your job is simply to shepherd it safely into the oven and then onto the table. Served when still slightly warm, this simple peasant loaf can offer one of the most unforgettably sublime taste experiences.

The Technique

When he demonstrates his bread making technique, Ken Buggy, of Buggy’s Glencairn Inn in West Waterford, first gives a list of necessities: “teaspoon, knife, flour, wooden spoon, bread soda, mixing bowl, buttermilk, oven on high, floured baking tray”.

Gather together the above. Put one overfilled kitchen cup of white flour into the bowl, and add two heaped cups of brown flour. Sieve in one rounded teaspoon of bread soda (the soda is the only thing you sieve). Add three-quarters pint buttermilk.

Whizz round with the wooden spoon as if constructing a roux. Lightly bring together the dough, finally using a little more white flour to seal it. Shape into a ball and place on a baking tray.

Cut deeply – nearly all the way through as it will heal together – in the shape of a cross. Bake for 40 minutes and then rap on the bottom to ensure it is cooked: it should sound hollow.

Are there secrets to getting it right? Well, lightness of touch is perhaps the key – you don’t knead the dough, and you should work quickly: soda bread should be made and in the oven in a trice. Serve it warm from the oven to enjoy it at its best.
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#2
Carmel SomersÂ’ Wholemeal Soda Bread

Developed by Carmel Somer of West Cork's Good Things Cafe

Ingredients:

700g (1½ lb) stoneground flour (Carmel recommends Abbey Stoneground Flour)
225g (8 oz.) white flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
2 eggs
75ml (3 fl. oz.) olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
600-750ml (1-1¼ pint) buttermilk
generous handful of seeds and grains (such as pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, wheat berries and wheatgerm)

Method:

Grease two 450g (1lb) loaf tins and preheat your oven to maximum.
Mix together your flours. Add salt, Sift in the bread soda. Break the eggs into a separate bowl and whisk with the olive oil and honey. Stir the eggs into the flour. Stir in the buttermilk. Stir until you get a soft, moist, just pourable consistency.
Add the seeds and grains. Press the dough into the tins, coming up to nearly the top. Put the tins into the oven (preheated to max). Cook for 20 minutes. Turn down the heat to approximately 180 C/350 F/ Gas 4 and cook for a further 30 minutes approximately.
Check to see if the bread is done.
Take out the tins and tap the base to see if it makes a hollow sound.
The finished loaves should be soft, crumbly and dotted with seeds.
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#3
Chocolate and Cherry Soda Bread

This recipe was developed by Herb Quigley of Ballycormac House in Tipperary.

All measurements are in US cups.

Ingredients:

3½ cups strong white flour
1 heaped teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons caster sugar
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup dried cherries (use dried apricots if you cannot find cherries)
¼ cup chopped bittersweet chocolate or tiny chocolate chips
1 ½ cups buttermilk

Method:

Sift together the four, soda, salt and sugar. Cut in the butter until the mixture looks like fine crumbs. Stir in the fruit and chocolate and make a well in the centre. Pour in the buttermilk and mix until a light dough forms. It should look like thick porridge.
Grease a 7-inch cake pan and pour in the dough, sprinkle with a little flour.
Bake at 220 C/425 F/ Gas 7 for 10 minutes.
Reduce the heat to 200 C/400 F/ Gas 6 and bake for 40 – 45 minutes.
The bread is done when brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from the pan and wrap lightly in a tea towel to cool
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#4
Saffron and Sultana Soda Bread

This recipe was developed by Noel McMeel, chef at Castle Leslie in Monaghan.

Ingredients:

Good pinch Saffron
568ml (1 pint) buttermilk
450g (1lb) plain white flour
1 level teaspoon baking soda
salt
1 teaspoon sugar
120g (4-6 oz) sultanas (sun-dried are recommended)

Method:

Soak the Saffron in the buttermilk overnight. Pre-heat the oven to max. Mix together the dry ingredients (sift the baking soda).
NB. Make sure you mix the sultanas right through the flour before you add the milk, because once you add the milk, you have to work quickly.
Mix the milk with the flour to a wet consistency. Turn out of the bowl and shape with your hands on the board. Put onto a floured tray. Shape the cross with your finger.
Bake for about half an hour.
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