White Whole Wheat Brown Soda Bread (Lactose-free Version, Too)

Traditional Irish soda bread is supposed to be just buttermilk, baking soda, salt, and flour (see also here and here for more discussion of traditional Irish soda bread).   According to Joe Pastry, “nobody–not even the Irish–wants to eat the real thing.” Yummy ingredients like butter, sugar, orange rind, and the like are embellishments to make soda bread “acceptable to modern palates,” says Joe.

Well, maybe  . . .

But, I made a recipe that was pretty much just whole wheat flour, buttermilk, baking soda, and salt, and it was quite good. Okay, so I added a pinch of baking powder as insurance that the bread would rise, and I added a spoonful of sweetener. But, it was pretty close to just the basic ingredients.

The bread was good, and even better the next day toasted, but I felt it would be better with more sweetness. So I added some more sweetener, a bit of oil, and some currants, candied orange rind, and candied ginger. Now it was really, really good! (But still better the next day). I also switched from shaping the loaf in a round shape to more of a baguette shape, and that was an improvement, too. It made for better slices.

I also made a lactose-free version with soy milk, and it was equally good.

With my lactose-free version, I tried slashing the loaf, and that worked out well.

The crumb of the bread is somewhat dense, but not all that dense considering it is whole wheat, leavened with just a bit of baking soda and baking powder.

Not So Traditional Irish Soda Bread
I played around with the ingredients based on looking at a lot of different recipes.

2 cups King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 slightly rounded teaspoon kosher salt (use about half this amount if using table salt)
1-2 Tablespoons safflower oil (optional)
1/4 cup agave syrup (or golden syrup or honey or maple syrup or sugar) (optional)
1 cup buttermilk (or soy milk with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar added in to curdle it)
Additional 1/4-1/2 cup buttermilk or soymilk, as needed, to moisten flour
Optional Add ins: 1 Tablespoon candied orange rind, 1 teaspoon chopped candied ginger, 1/2 cup currants

Combine the dry ingredients plus any add-ins like currants or candied orange rind. Stir in the oil, syrup, and 1 cup of the buttermilk (or curdled soy milk). The batter should be wet and sticky, and not dry like bread dough. It should not be as loose as pancake batter. It will mass together in a lumpy sticky ball in the center of the bowl. If there are dry patches, you will need to add in more liquid.

The first two times I made this, using buttermilk, I needed 1 1/4- 1 1/2 cups of liquid. The third time, I weighed my flour (270g / 9.25 ounces) and only needed 1 cup of soymilk. I’m not sure if this was because it was soy milk, or whether I used a lighter hand with the flour. Usually, whole wheat flour and bread flour weigh about 5 ounces per cup, and all purpose weighs about 4.5 ounces. If you use a different flour than KA White Whole Wheat, you may need to add less liquid. Try starting with 3/4 cup and adding more as you need it.

Don’t be afraid if the dough is wet, though. Oil a sheet of parchment or foil and use your oiled hands to scoop the batter onto the sheet. Shape the batter into a long loaf or a round (if it is really loose because you added too much liquid, you can put it in a greased loaf pan or round cake pan).

Bake the bread at 400-425 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until the crust is golden (let it get really nice and brown).

If you are looking for a traditional white soda bread, this recipe from Irish cooking instructor Rachel Allen (Ballymaloe Cookery School) looks good. Rachel Allen has a gluten-free version, as well.  Irish blogger The Daily Spud recently took a class with Rachel Allen and learned that white soda bread can be used as the basis for a “cheat’s foccacia.”

Update: I made the batter for Rachel Allen’s Irish white soda bread and used it to make pizza. The dough is excellent, and just uses salt, buttermilk, baking soda, and flour (I left out the spoonful of sugar that the recipe calls for).

Update two: I made scones using a similar recipe to the above,  but with 4 tbl. of butter and 1 Tbl. baking powder instead of the amount of leavener listed above (baking powder and baking soda). The batter was shaped into 8 rounds. The difference in texture and taste was huge. And when I made the recipe again with whole milk yogurt (YoBaby apple and pear yogurts) and craisins, it was unbelievably good! The added sugar and fat took the taste of the soda bread from plain to decadent. It was like the difference in flavor between plain pancakes and pancakes drenched in butter and syrup.

Other recipes that look interesting:

Kalyn’s recipe for 100 Percent Whole Wheat Brown Soda Bread
WhippedTheBlog Irish Soda Bread from Grand Central Bakery
Under the Table with Jen’s Lisa Jacobs Irish Soda Bread
Downey’s Irish Soda Bread (this is where I got the idea for the baguette shape)
Noreen Kinney’s Irish Soda Bread
Anitra Earle’s Irish Soda Bread with Raisins

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2 Responses to “White Whole Wheat Brown Soda Bread (Lactose-free Version, Too)”

  1. Deb Schiff Says:

    That’s so cool! Thanks for posting alternate versions. Happy St. Pat’s!

    • pragmaticattic Says:

      Thanks, Deb! Actually, I was just trying to use up my flour before Passover :-)) I love that your site has a healthy whole grain agave syrup hamantaschen recipe. Something to bookmark for next year!

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