Hard-to-find Irish flour soda bread is traditionally made with
If you have an Irish grandmother, the following scene may be familiar to you. You’ve stopped to visit Gran, banter is exchanged, comments are made about your physique, and you’re ushered into the kitchen where two things await: strong tea and freshly baked soda bread. Ireland has many symbols, but one of the most endearing and delicious is soda bread.
Irish soda bread dates back to Native Americans, who pulled pearl ash from wood to use as a leavening alternative to yeast, according to Trafalgar. The Irish began making soda bread en masse when baking soda became available in the 1830s, and it was essential to eat during the Irish famine a decade later. When food became scarce, bread had to be made with the cheapest ingredients available. That’s why traditional soda bread only has four ingredients: wholemeal flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk. If you want to make it yourself, the last three ingredients are easy to find at the average grocery store. In contrast, wholemeal flour is much harder to find in the United States.
It’s all in the flour
Brown Irish soda bread is defined by its crumbly texture. This is achieved with the use of “soft” flour. The Irish Soda Bread Preservation Society explains that the type of flour in the United States is “hard” whole wheat flour, which lends itself well to yeast leavening. Soft flour does not rise well with yeast and is best in quick breads like soda bread.
The difference between American whole wheat flour and Irish whole wheat flour is a matter of consistency. Illustrated Cook explains that American whole wheat flour is ground to an even consistency. Using it to make traditional soda bread will lead to exceptionally dense and heavy bread. Wholemeal flour, on the other hand, still contains bits of bran and wheat seed germ. The bran and germ create a coarser consistency in the bread and a nutty flavor. You can still order Irish flour online, but an easier solution is to replace some of the whole wheat flour with extra bran and germ. According thriving kitchenyou’ll likely find wheat germ and bran in the cereal or bulk ingredient aisles of the grocery store.