Bread, Who doesn’t eat bread every once in a while? Most people do unless you have some gluten problems. What I find hard to grasp though, is why people like the Bread that is sold in the Supermarkets so much. Its is so light, so Airy, not to much taste. Eating a slice of supermarket bread doesn’t fill me up at all. Besides, did you ever had a good look at the ingredients? hmm.
In Ireland this winter, I was taught how to make Soda Bread. These days I bake my own version of this recipe about twice a week, for the obvious reasons. Hopefully after you have read this post, I have inspired you to do the same!
A little bit of Bread History
Evidence suggest that the first Breads were made over 30.000 years ago. These were not the Breads as we know today, Rather they were a flat kind of pancake, a grain-paste cooked on a flat stone above a fire, made from roasted and ground grains and water. Probably found out either by accident or by deliberately experimenting. These days we know these Breads as Tortillas or Roti sheets. Around 10,000 years ago, when wheat and barley slowly were being domesticated. Wheat-based agriculture spread from Southwest Asia to Europe, North Africa and the Indian Subcontinent. with the finding of Gist/Yeast and other edible crops. Humans slowly changed from the Traditional nomadic, Hunter/gatherer lifestyle to Farmers and settlers.
For generations, white Bread was preferred by the rich while the poor ate dark (whole grain) Bread. It was not until the late 20th century this changed in Western society. Whole grain bread became preferred due to having better nutritional value, while white bread became associated with lower-class ignorance of nutrition.
Traditional Bread-making is quite time-consuming, dough needs to be mixed with yeast and requires several cycles of kneading and resting for it to be ready for baking. Around 1961 much changed when it came to bread making. The Chorleywood Bread Process was invented in the UK. Basically it used Intense mechanical working of dough, which drastically reduced the fermentation period so that a batch of bread can be mixed, risen and baked in less than three hours. At the expense of Taste and Nutrition. This mechanized process allowed the use of inferior grain but requires the flour to be treated with different enzymes, Bleaching- Oxidizing- and Reducing agents. This technique is now widely used around the world in large factories. When Chemical additives are used rather than Gist, Yeast or Eggs, the bread is called “quick bread”
While Soda Bread as we know it today has been fine tuned by the Irish. They were not the first to use Soda as a leavening agent. It was actually the Indigenous people of America that knew about the chemistry behind the process for a long time. They used to make Potash (the ancestor of Baking soda). Potash was made by mixing wood ashes with water, which afterwards was evaporated in Iron pots. leaving behind a white residue called Potassium Carbonate. which they then used in their bread to make it rise.
Otherwise, lets us continue!
Just kidding! Before we continue I would like to say that this is not the Traditional recipe, I kind of modified it to my personal preferences after experimenting a bit. Some say the term “Soda Bread” is restricted only to the white traditional form. Ah well, Everything is a Remix.
Soda Bread Ingredients
- Flour of choice, I like Rye flour.
- Baking Soda (sodium bicarbonate)
- Sour Milk
Proportions for the Dough
- Two cups of Flour equals One cup of Sour Milk
- A tea spoon of Soda
- A tea spoon of salt
- About a hand full of seeds.
What about the Sour Milk
The day before I want to bake the Soda Bread, I get a bottle of Fresh milk from our neighbors who have a Cow. We use a Wood Fired stove to cook and to heat the house. I put one cup of milk in a pan which I leave on top of the stove over night (not directly onto the cooking pit) but on top of the thermal mass. The next morning the Milk has turned a bit sour with a layer of cream on top of it. Before I start the bread I mix the cream through the milk, now its ready to use. Of course, if you live in the City and don’t have access to fresh milk. Feel free to buy Sour milk/Buttermilk or maybe Kefir at your local shop.
Why use Sour milk? Well, Sour milk contains Lactic Acids, Baking Soda reacts with these acids to make tiny bubbles of Carbon Dioxide. This causes the Dough to rise which gives it, its typical texture.
Lets get Started!
Pre-heat your oven to 190 Degrees. Put two cups of your chosen Flour in a bowl, I use quite a big cup, not the regular teacup. Add a tea spoon of Salt and Soda. then the hand full of seeds. Mix this up a little, for the Soda, Salt and seeds to evenly distributed through the flour.
Once this is done add the cup of Sour Milk, Stir with a fork or your hand. Very soon it will become a bit Doughy, Don’t over do it! It needs to stay a bit moist and a bit sticky. Then butter up an oven tray and put the dough on it. I like to add some more seeds or nuts on top of it to make it look cool. But you can also make a Cross or a Smiley or art as you seem fit. the cross also allows the dough to expand more nicely
Put it in the oven for about 40 minutes. To check if your Soda Bread is done. Poke it with a knife or similar tool, if no dough is sticking to the knife the Soda Bread is Done!
- An Egg
- Spoon of Honey
I like the bread heavy and compact. But if you like it a bit more airy you can mix an egg through the Sour milk. Some people also like it to add a spoon of Honey to the Sour milk. This will balance out the slight sour taste the bread can have.
Or do you prefer it Vegan?
Instead of the sour milk, you could consider buying a Coconut and make Coconut milk, or make a milk from Hemp seeds. Any other nut or seed should be fine too, though Coconut is great for it already has a nice fat content that works good with the bread. The only thing you have to add manually is the acid, The acid is needed for the Reaction with the baking soda, so simply add a teaspoon of Lemon juice or Vinegar to the milk you made. let is sit for about 5 minutes before you use it instead of the Sour milk.
Try different things, at some point you will find your own preferred combination! Happy Baking!