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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Whole Grain Soda Bread

Or Multigrain and Seed Soda Bread

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.

The basics
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

Final dough
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.


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