Irish Whole-Wheat Soda Bread
June 25, 2011

by stacy
Published on: June 25, 2011
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“Soda bread is very different from any other bread you can find in the world.  It’s round, with a cross cut in the top, and it has a velvety texture, quite unlike yeast bread, and the most distinctive and delicious taste.”
-James Beard, Beard on Bread

Since I’ve been enjoying the first few official days of summer, I’m a few days late posting about the Irish Whole-Wheat Soda Bread that I made on Thursday.  The recipe appears deceptively simple–basic ingredients, a short kneading time, and no rising.  However, there is technique to soda bread that I didn’t quite master on my first loaf.

The recipe can be found on the James Beard Foundation’s website.

Here are the ingredients:

Irish Whole-Wheat Soda Bread Ingredients

All I had to do was mix the ingredients together.  My dough was a bit crumbly, but I got it to hold together after kneading it for a few minutes.  In hindsight, I should have kneaded it for a longer period of time to get a smoother texture.

Next, I shaped the dough into a round loaf and cut a cross in the top.  At this stage, I should have (1) put more time and effort into shaping the dough into a tighter ball; and (2) cut with consistent pressure, instead of letting the knife go in more deeply at the end of each cut.  Unaware of the problems ahead, I put the loaf in the oven.

Irish Whole-Wheat Soda Bread Before Baking

After 25 minutes, I pulled the loaf out of the oven to discover that because I cut too deeply, one quarter of the loaf had separated and was falling off.  I also had no idea of how to determine if the loaf was done or not.  I tried thumping in on the bottom.  The loaf sounded hollow, but I just wasn’t sure.  In desperation, I sliced into the bread (even though Beard cautions, “Let the loaf cool before slicing very thin; soda bread must never be cut thick”).  It was a good thing that I did, because the center of the loaf was a mass of uncooked dough.  I let the bread bake for another 10 minutes, and then used the sophisticated technique of ripping off part of the loaf to look at the middle to determine whether or not my loaf was done.  It appeared to be fully baked, so I cut myself another slice.  A thick one.

Irish Whole-Wheat Soda Bread

Over the past few days, I have been eating a lot of Irish Whole-Wheat Soda Bread, mostly because I have the whole loaf to myself after Mike tried a slice and pronounced it disgusting.  I, on the other had, absolutely love the taste of soda bread.  The texture of my loaf leaves something to be desired–it’s not as smooth as I would like, and instead of being nicely rounded, my loaf looks more like a glob.  This is definitely a recipe that I will have to bake again to perfect.  And then I will eat an entire loaf of delicious soda bread myself–cut into glorious thick slices.

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