Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread
With the coming of Fall and cooler temperatures, I start making my own bread in order to warm my soul (and stomach) with freshly-baked bread and the house with heat from more kitchen use. One of my favorite breads is Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread, which we find easily along on our bicycle tours in Ireland. Soda bread is of course one of the specialties of Ireland and it is still baked in countless farmhouses and homes all over the country.
Ingredients for two small loaves or a bigger one:
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl and make a well in the center. Add enough liquid to make a thick dough. Stir with a wooden spoon; the pouring should be done in large quantities, not spoonful by spoonful. The mixture should be slack but not wet and the mixing should be done lightly and quickly. Add a little more liquid if it seems too stiff. With floured hands put onto a lightly floured board or table and flatten the dough into a circle about 1 1/2 inches think. Then put onto a baking sheet, and make a large cross over it with a floured knife. (This is to ensure even distribution of heat.) Bake in a moderate to a hot oven (375-400 degrees F) for about 40 minutes or less if you have made two smaller loaves. To keep the bread soft, wrap it up in a clean tea-towel. The break should not be cut until it is quite cold and ‘set.’ This takes from 4 to 6 hours.
Sultanas (about 1/2 cup) are sometimes added to the dough. A favorite with children is Treacle Soda Bread. It is made by warming 2 Tbsp of black treacle (molasses) with the milk and adding 1 1/2 Tbsp of sugar to the dough.
I first found this fun recipe in A Taste of Ireland by Theodora FitzGibbon (London: Weindenfeld & Nicolson, 1994).