I love to learn about the history of food so when I decided to make some soda bread, I went looking for it's origins and a traditional recipe. Soda bread, as it quickly became apparent, was not invented by the Irish. Using soda as a leavening agent in bread was most likely originated with the American Indians. They used pearl ash, also known as potash, from wood ash to leaven their breads.
Even though the Irish didn't invent soda bread, it is most often identified with them because they were early adapters. Soft wheat (or pastry wheat) is the only suitable grain that can be grown in Ireland's climate, but it doesn't contain enough gluten for traditional yeasted bread. It does work well with soda bread recipes.
The traditional recipes call for pastry flour, buttermilk, soda and salt. We like our breads a little heartier so I used half white pastry flour and half whole wheat pastry flour. I also added a ground multigrain cereal mix to give it a little more texture. Because I don't eat dairy, I substituted buttermilk with a combination of rice milk, Earth Balance butter substitute, and apple cider vinegar. The vinegar (or acid) interacts with the soda (alkaline) to create large bubbles that causes the bread to rise. Ok, maybe that's all blah, blah, blah to you but it fascinates me.
Soda bread is so easy to make, there's practically no kneading and no long hours of waiting for the dough to rise, it can be made on the spur of the moment. You just mix the liquids with the flours and knead it once or twice to form a ball before you put it in a cast iron pot or baking dish. Then, with a sharp knife, you cut a cross in the top of the dough.
It's baked, covered, for 30 minutes and then the top is removed to finish baking for another 15 minutes.
Because soda bread doesn't require gluten, I think this could easily be made gluten free by using 4 cups of your favorite gluten free blend. I want to try making it with oat flour next time, I think it would be delicious for breakfast with butter and jam.
Multigrain Irish Soda Bread
Makes one loaf - Use organic ingredients whenever possible
14 oz rice milk or other non dairy milk
3/4 cup ground multigrain cereal
1 tablespoon Earth Balance butter substitute, melted
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 cups pastry flour
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Preheat your oven to 425˚
Put the multigrain cereal into the rice milk.
Stir the apple cider vinegar into the rice milk and set aside for 20 minutes.
Whisk together the flours, baking soda and salt.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and stir,
Lightly flour a work surface and remove the dough from the bowl.
Knead the dough once or twice to just to form a nice ball.
The dough will be sticky.
Grease a 7" pot or baking dish. (a larger pot will make a flatter bread)
Put the dough in the pot.
Cut a cross in the top of the dough.
Cover the pot and bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the top of the pot and lower the oven temp to 350˚
Bake for another 15 - 20 minutes until nice and brown.
The bread should sound hallow when tapped.
Let the bead cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing it.
Then let the bread cool for an hour before cutting it.