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Irish-Inspired Soda Bread Gets a Mediterranean Touch (& Whole Grains)

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A beautiful rise awaits.
A beautiful rise awaits. Photo by James Ransom

This loaf is quick, quick, quick—for all the days you crave a good-grain bread without all the work. While a slow sourdough boule or baguette is the stuff of our dreams, life sometimes doesn’t cooperate. Save the day by making an Irish-inspired soda bread. It’s on the table in just an hour or so. And with 100% whole grain flours and sesame seeds baked in, it is packed with nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, and phytochemicals. A win-win.

This recipe makes a richly textured bread with a comforting crumb yet not overly crusty. I use some whole wheat flour for structure, combined with lower-gluten spelt flour which adds a mild natural sweetness. Flecked with bits of golden corn, this rustic loaf sits somewhere between traditional austere Irish soda breads with no fat at all, and American soda breads that are often cake-like and enriched with butter.

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A dramatic flouring adds a rustic touch.
A dramatic flouring adds a rustic touch. Photo by James Ransom

Beware a secret ingredient, I’m half Greek: olive oil. The oil gives you a softer crumb, despite the use of all the good-grain flour. But don’t use your fancy aromatic salad oil here, just a solid extra-virgin oil. (I like Trader Joe’s 100% Greek Kalamata Extra Virgin Olive Oil).

Before you start, be sure your whole grain flours are fresh. If you detect the slightest off-scent, go buy a fresh bag. And if you feel the need to disguise all this goodness from suspicious guests, use “white whole wheat” flour instead of regular whole wheat—same nutritional benefits but naturally sweet and lighter in color.

Just my cup of tea.
Just my cup of tea. Photo by James Ransom

Last but not least, when you bake 100% whole grain loaves like this one, a digital scale is a must. It will make your baking so much easier. Just put a bowl on your scale, tare, and add your flours one by one—hello, clean counters and calm nerves! And no more dreadful heavy whole-grain loaves.

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Serve this easy loaf for breakfast, brunch or dinner. The nutty whole-grain slices beg for a spread of rich creamy Irish butter. Or drizzle on some olive oil, seriously (!), and bring out a platter of good cheese, salumi, pickles, radishes, and olives, and call it a meal!

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Helpful Tips

No Buttermilk? No Problem: I often have no buttermilk on hand when I want to bake a quick bread like this one. As long as you have whole or low-fat milk on hand, you can make it on the spot: Add 20 g (1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) white vinegar to a liquid cup measure and top with milk until the total weight is 300 g (1 1/4 cup). It will start to curdle within minutes—voila, your buttermilk is ready to bake with.

Measuring Flour Without a Scale: If you don’t have a scale, fluff the flour in the container first, then lightly it spoon into the measuring cup until it is overflowing. Don’t bang the cup on the counter! Sweep across the top to level with a thin-bladed knife.

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Irish Soda Bread with Ancient Grains

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Serves 8
  • 175 grams (1 1/2 cups minus 1 tablespoon) whole wheat flour, plus extra for the work surface and for dusting
  • 125 grams (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon) whole grain spelt flour
  • 60 grams (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) stone-ground cornmeal, preferably medium
  • 35 grams (1/4 cup) sesame seeds
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 300 grams (1 1 /4 cups) chilled whole or low-fat buttermilk, well-shaken *See note below
  • 25 grams (2 tablespoons) extra-virgin olive oil
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How do you like your Irish (and Irish-inspired) soda bread? Let us know below!

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Grains, Wellness, St. Patrick's Day