I have never tasted soda bread. Whenever I come across a recipe for soda bread I skip over, because it is not a yeast bread. This weekend was looking busy but I wanted to have bread around. Earlier in the week I had read Heidi Swanson's recipe for an Oat Soda Bread. It seemed like the perfect thing to make for the weekend. Through her post I also read a version of the bread by In Jennie's Kitchen. My only problem was that neither was whole grain. I wondered if I should try to make one. After all, I didn't know what to expect anyway. Heidi's website also has a recipe for a Six Seed Soda Bread which looks wonderful. I believed that combining the two recipes and then making some tweaks might get me what I wanted: a nutritious whole grain bread in a short time.
Looking up a few more recipes online, I found that the basic ingredients for a soda bread are: flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk, optionally oil and sweetener. The idea is to stir them briefly, transfer the batter-dough to a pan before the soda starts doing its rising and bake. Simple.
Making it whole grain
Heidi's recipe calls for 7 oz of oat flour and 10 oz of all purpose flour. I decided to split the 10 oz into 6 oz of whole wheat and 4 oz of seed flours. Because there would be no rising time like pre-ferments in whole grain breads, I soaked the whole wheat in some of the buttermilk for about an hour, to soften the bran, before putting it all together. The downside to this was that later when I added the baking soda and salt I had to ensure that it mixed well with the soaked flour as well as the dry flour. I toasted all the seeds and nuts a bit and then ground them up fairly fine. I made the oat flour from a mixture of 3.5 oz each of quick and rolled oats. I added a little bit of agave nectar to make up for the slight bitterness of the whole grains and seeds. I figured I didn't need any oil because of the presence of seeds. My setup looked like this:
|From left: Soaked whole wheat flour, buttermilk with agave nectar, |
ground seeds, oat flour, baking soda and salt
I used 2 cups of buttermilk instead of the recommended 1¾ cups, thinking that the whole grains would soak up more, but I didn't realize that it was unnecessary because the seeds wouldn't absorb as much liquid. My dough was more like thick batter and not 'knead-able'. I mixed it well in the bowl and transferred it directly to the pan. Brushed it with some more buttermilk and sprinkled it with some sesame seeds.
|Ready for the oven|
Followed Heidi's instructions for the most part, except the kneading and not slashing. The dough rose a little during baking, not much. I wonder if a 8½ x 4½ pan would have made a prettier loaf than my 9¼ x 5¼ silicone pan. I didn't move the rack at half time because the surface seemed to be browning well. When I tested the dough at the 45 min mark, it registered over 205° F and seemed done.
|Sesame seeds looked pretty.|
|I baked some buttermilk biscuits as well.|
|Sliced okay, with bits of edges falling off sometimes|
|Close up of the crumb|
One of the things missing when baking this bread was the aroma that I have come to associate with bread baking. The bread doesn't taste anything like yeast bread, and maybe that is how it is with regular Irish soda breads. Like I said, I've never had some before to know. That aside, it tasted good, nutty but with a hint of soda, which might be the result of the dry and wet flours not being mixed well. I had a slice of bread plain and some with a little clarified butter (ghee), I liked it, although RH didn't like it that much (He is biased towards the buttermilk biscuits). I am sure it will taste great with spreadable cheese, but I'll have to try it with fruit spread before I can be sure how well that works. I think it would toast well too. That will be known over the next couple days.
Date: Jan 21, 2011
Recipe: See description above for references
7 oz oat flour (made by grinding rolled oats)
6 oz whole wheat flour
4 oz ground toasted seeds & nuts (I used 1.5 oz walnuts, 1 oz sunflower seeds, 1 oz pepitas, 0.25 oz wheat germ and 0.25 oz flaxseeds)
1¾ tsp baking soda
1¼ tsp salt
2 C buttermilk (1¾ would be sufficient)
1 tbsp agave nectar
Comments: This was a decent first try for changing a recipe quite a bit and getting something edible. It would be worth trying again, but I really don't think I can use this as a replacement for a yeast bread.