Monday, May 28, 2012

Family Recipe: Brown Soda Bread

A few days ago, I put out a call on Facebook for relatives to send me recipes or food stories. The first person to respond was a cousin who lives in Cork, Ireland--where my Dad's family comes from. Tony Clifford is my Dad's first cousin on his father's side. Fearless when it comes to computers, Tony is a great guy who is very active in keeping in touch with us all on Facebook and by e-mail. I've seen him a couple of times in Cork, and at least once over here in the States--he's got nephews in the Tulsa area. I also can't believe how much he travels! Tony was kind enough to send me a number of recipes, which will be featured here over the course of the summer.

I thought I'd start with a classic which would probably be of interest to my relatives here in the States--Brown Soda Bread. First, let me post the recipe as he sent it:

Soda Bread Brown (or white)
1 lb white flour
1 lb brown flour (or white if you want a white loaf – total of 2 lbs)
1 cup oatmeal (porridge oats)
1 teaspoonful of bread soda
1 cup of bran – optional
Pinch of salt
One and a half pints of buttermilk
3 oz butter or margarine or a combination of the two
1 oz of sugar – brown or white

Mix flour, salt, bread soda. Add sugar and blend in butter/margarine
Add buttermilk and mix thoroughly. Knead well on a board.
Cut in small loafs/cakes – about 6 suits us
Place on baking tin. Brush on some buttermilk.
Bake in hot oven e.g. 425F or 190C

I've noticed from the other recipes he send me (and from reading older cookbooks from the UK) is that in some recipes, the older English units are used (rather than metric). However, as is typical of recipes from Europe, many of the measurements are by weight, rather than volume. Americans tend to use recipes written for volume (cups, both liquid and dry), rather than weight. Many American cooks don't own a scale because it's usually not necessary when following American recipes. I do, however, own a scale--it's really useful, especially when using European recipes. 
So, in the interest of making the recipe more familiar to my American relatives, I've converted everything to typically American units. Please note that I am ashamed to say that I had to look up how many cups are in a pint! 

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used all-purpose as opposed to bread flour since this isn't a yeast bread)
2 3/4 cups whole wheat flour (not whole wheat graham flour, which contains more bran)
1 cup old fashioned oats (not the instant kind)
1 teaspoon baking soda
(I omitted the bran--I only had oat bran on hand, and I assume the recipe calls for wheat bran)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups buttermilk
6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

A word about the oats--the old-fashioned oats (rolled oats) that I used may not have been exactly what the recipe was written for. Steel-cut oats are very common in Ireland and are sometimes referred to as porridge oats (or Irish oats in the U.S.). The rolled oats are what I had on hand, which would be typical of an American household. Old-fashioned oats are steamed then rolled out, steel-cut oats are oat groats which are cut into small pieces. I'll try this again with steel-cut oats sometime and let you know how much of a difference there is. Don't use instant oatmeal, which normally contains a lot of sugar and wouldn't provide much texture. 

And a word about the brown flour--as far as I can tell, brown flour is roughly the equivalent of U.S. whole wheat flour. The equivalent of U.S. whole wheat graham flour would probably be wholemeal flour in Ireland/UK. So I used plain whole wheat flour.

I followed the rest of the recipe more or less as written. 
After mixing the dry ingredients and cutting in the butter,
I added the buttermilk.
I kneaded the dough until it came together. You don't need
to knead for 10 minutes because this is a quick bread,
not a yeast dough. Husband took picture (thanks!).
I cut the dough into four pieces, rather than six, as this is a better size for our family.
Daughter helps brush on the buttermilk.
Ready for the oven! The baking tin in the original
recipe is an American cookie sheet. I put the cross
on the loaves because that's what soda bread
recipes usually say to do.
There's no baking time listed, but I found that 45 minutes at 425 F worked well for making four loaves. If you only made two, I would imagine you'd be looking at about an hour, and if you made six loaves, as written, it might be more like 35 or 40. Yum! Thanks, Tony!
The finished loaves.

1 comment:

  1. I'll have to give this a try sometime. I wonder if you could give the oats a few pulses in a food processor to make them a bit more like the steel cut oats.