It is not all that often that you could classify soda bread as whimsical. It is an old reliable, a standard, even a relic oft maligned in this new(er) world of yeast, sourdough and, it has to be said, more labour intensive breads! I am here to champion the humble soda bread and festoon it with flags.
During my time at cookery school, I favored soda above all other breads. While I did indeed find the not so gentle art of kneading a yeast loaf therapeutic, I found great comfort in the knowledge that while (gently) mixing a soda dough I was following the example of my female forebears. Due to the limited availability of fresh yeast in Ireland, even to this day, I don’t think my Nana would have made many, if any, yeast loaves. Although I stand to be corrected by one of my aunties (all avid blog readers i’m sure!).
I try to bake soda bread a couple of times a week. I alternate between a round loaf and a traditional loaf. I bake the traditional loaf in a silicone loaf tin which gives the side and bottom crust a lovely smooth feel and shine. I sift together a pound of cream flour, a tablespoon of sugar, a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of bread soda and give the dry ingredients a good mix to disperse the bread soda. To the dry ingredients I add about 14 fluid ounces of buttermilk. Using my hand, I bring the wet and dry ingredients together. I then tip the dough onto a floured countertop and either shape into a round loaf or drop it into the loaf tin. The round loaf should be quartered with a sharp knife or the traditional loaf halfed lengthways. I pop the loaf into the oven at about 200 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. You will know the loaf is baked when you tap the underside and the bread sounds hollow.
For me, soda bread is the ultimate breakfast treat, with Irish creamery butter and jam. As a small girl, I would often have breakfast in my nana’s kitchen with my granddad who would sit on a high stool at the kitchen counter listening to the radio with a mug of tea, soda bread and jam. If you are really bold you could try some hot rashers. Hot rashers and melted butter. Delicious.
As an after dinner treat last week, I baked a lemon and blood orange tart. In receipt of a windfall of blood oranges, you will have seen them crop up in my baking over the last couple of weeks. This is the last of them I promise. This is a very easy tart to put together especially if you use store-bought pastry. I do make my own pastry, but no judgements here if you buy your own. I have the benefit of a 12 week course and hands on pastry experience behind me and sometimes the thought of making my own pastry will set me off in search of a pastry free pudding.
I like to use fluted tins for smaller tarts (as you can see here) but for a tart for slicing I like to use a straight edged sandwich type tin. I love the smooth clean sides. The tin I used was probably (read totally) too deep for the amount of lemon and blood orange custard that I had whipped up, but who doesn’t love a little bit of extra sweet pastry? I like to let the pastry overhang the tin while baking to accommodate any shrinkage of the pastry due to loss of moisture. Once the tart is ready to serve, I cut off the overhanging pastry with a serrated edged knife. You can get a very professional clean result this way, or if, as in this case, you are in a hurry to get the dish to the table, the result will be bit more rustic!
When making the custard the blood oranges added a pinkish hue to the deep yellow mixture and I was a little concerned that this would bake off to an unappetizing beige but I am delighted to report that the custard baked a beautiful deep yellow.
Generally and traditionally this tart would be served cool but in this case we couldn’t resist the tart as it came out of the oven and it was devoured while the custard was still warm served with softly whipped cream and mint. A new treat.
For presentation purposes, I relied on Mary Berry’s advice and topped the cake with one of its constituent parts, some blood orange and some icing sugar. The result looked a little like something from my first cook book We Can Cook. 1970’s food, appetizing!
If you would like more detailed recipes or instructions for the soda bread and/or the tart just get in touch!