Growing up in the Catholic church, and surrounded by Irish families, I have very fond memories of St. Patrick’s Days. In grade school, although we had to wear uniforms, on St. Patrick’s day we were allowed to go all out and wear green, beads, and hats. And all the green food!
I have to thank my grade school teacher Mrs. Horak, for introducing me to the traditional Irish Soda Bread. She would make it for Holy Thursday, as a way for us to participate in the Last Supper. This is the day that Jesus broke bread and shared wine with his 12 apostles, or friends, before his crucification on Friday. As children, we would always look forward to the mass celebration on Thursday to grab just a morsel of this bread, and sneak the leftovers if we were lucky enough to be 8th graders. Its funny to think back now about how many crumbs we must have left on the church pews passing those crumbly loaves around!
I made a traditional “Brown soda” or “wheaten bread” with a blend of whole wheat flour and some oatmeal. You would be surprised how quick and easy it is to prepare! There is no need to knead, and no waiting around for bread to rise. The bread is made using baking soda which becomes activated as soon as it meets the wet ingredients. It is baked immediately.
- 4 cups whole wheat flour, sifted (480 grams)
- 1 cup white all-purpose flour, sifted (120 grams)
- scant 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats (25 g)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- scant 2 cups buttermilk
- a few tablespoons water
- cooking spray
- flour for dusting baking sheet
*To get a head start, I placed all the dry ingredients in a brown bag the night before. In the morning, I just added buttermilk and water and baked.
1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and dust with flour.
2. Mix all dry ingredients in bowl and whisk gently with whisk to distribute all ingredients evenly. Make a well in the center and pour buttermilk about 1/2 cup at a time and incorporate gently. Do not over mix. Add a couple tablespoons of water if needed to form a cohesive dough. It’s better to use less water than more, so use just enough to form a ball.
3. Turn the dough out to a tabletop or large wooden cutting board. Form into a large ball and flatten just a bit. Make sure you work the dough only a minute or less to keep a light loaf. Cut a cross in the dough with a sharp knife, going a deep 1/2 inch into the dough.
4. Place the loaf gently on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes at 450 F. Then lower the oven temperature to 425 F and bake an additional 25 minutes or until brown on the peaks. Also, check for a hollow sound when you tap the bottom of the loaf for doneness. Let cool 20-30 minutes before breaking into quarters to avoid excessive crumbling.
Serve with Irish lamb stew or toast to eat with jam for tea time.