Irish Soda Bread with Ancient Grains

By MariaSpeck
March 9, 2018
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Author Notes: 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.

When you bake 100% whole grain loaves like this one, a digital scale is a must (see my note on baking without a scale below). 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.

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!

Featured in: Irish-Inspired Soda Bread Gets a Mediterranean Touch (& Whole Grains).
MariaSpeck

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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
  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425ºF. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly flour your work surface.
  2. Add the whole wheat and spelt flour, and the cornmeal to a large bowl. Add the sesame seeds, baking soda, and salt and thoroughly whisk to combine. Make a well in the center. I often do this step ahead of time to speed things up (be sure to tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap if working ahead).
  3. Add the buttermilk and the olive oil to a 2-cup liquid measure and beat, using a fork, until well-blended. Add almost all this liquid mixture—reserving a scant 1/4 cup—to the center of the flour mixture. Using a fork (my first choice) or a spatula, and starting from the center, gently stir until much of the flour is incorporated and a lumpy dough starts to form.
  4. Lightly flour your hands and gather any remaining flour, drizzling on just enough of the reserved liquid by the tablespoon until a patchy, slightly tacky dough just comes together.
  5. Transfer the dough to the prepared work surface and, using lightly floured hands, give it four to six turns while gently shaping it into a mound. Resist the urge to work the soft dough too much—less is more. Place onto the prepared baking sheet.
  6. Very lightly flour your hands again and gently pat down the round to flatten to about 6 1/2 inches across. Using a sharp knife, cut a cross into the top, going across the whole length of the loaf in a fluid motion, about 1⁄4 inch deep. These two steps contribute to a beautiful rise. Dust the loaf generously with flour, from about a foot above, for a nice rustic touch.
  7. Bake until the loaf turns golden brown around the edges with a crusty top, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway. A cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.
  8. Using oven mitts, remove the baking sheet with the bread to a wire rack. Peel off the paper and return the loaf to the rack. (For a slightly softer crust, cover with a clean dishtowel.) Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before cutting into 8 wedges with a large serrated knife. Serve warm or on the same day.
  9. Irish soda bread tastes best on the day it is made. But don’t worry: it reheats nicely in a toaster oven the next day. Leftovers also freeze well for up to 1 month. Thaw at room temperature and briefly warm in a microwave, about 20 seconds for a quarter loaf, or in a 300°F oven.
  10. Note: 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.
  11. Note: 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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