Sunday, January 2, 2011

Irish Soda Bread


I've made other recipes for Irish Soda Bread before. Beard on Bread comes to mind, my first bread book and one I still go back to from time to time for a few favorite recipes. Soda bread is a nice fast bread, something to go to when you want something really quick. Made with chemical leavenings, you just mix the dough and bake. But in many ways it seems closer to a biscuit or scone than a bread. Also, it is a bread that has abysmal keeping properties. So you need to eat it quickly as you make it. Still, it can be nice on occasion so I was anxious to try Hamelman's recipe.

To be brutally honest, I was fairly disappointed with the results. To be fair, this is a brown soda bread while the recipes I've made in the past have been white soda breads. This added a heaviness to a bread that is already somewhat stogy. Nonetheless, it quickly found its way into the trash.

I went back to the description of Irish Soda Bread in Baking Illustrated to see if I could come up with some techniques that would rescue the recipe. (Often I find Cook's Illustrated explanations are more valuable than their actual recipes, particularly if you don't agree with their goals.) Based on ideas from this book, I made several changes to the bread. First, I adjusted the flours for a higher protein content. I used 3.6 ounces of whole-wheat flour and 4.3 ounces of KA's all purpose flour. I added 2.6 ounces of wheat germ as a replacement for the wheat flakes hoping to recover some of the lost flavor. Next, I switched to 1/2 Tbs soda and 1/2 Tbs of cream of tartar from Hamelman's suggestions. Finally, I baked the bread in a dutch oven with the lid on for half the time.

While I had some hope for these changes, the results were still disappointing. Perhaps, the bread was a little better, but not much. In the future, I'll go back to white versions of Irish Soda Bread and avoid this one. This recipe gets a thumbs down.

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