Darina Allen is a cooking teacher and fabulous chef at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland. I would love to go there and take classes someday!I love hearing her voice and her beautiful Irish accent. I saw her make this simple delicious bread on the old cooking show "Cooking Live" with Sara Moulton. I immediately made it and since then I have made it every St. Patrick's Day and a few times in between. It is so easy and goes so nicely with the traditional corned beef and cabbage or Irish stew. It is hard to believe that it is not a yeast bread. I normally use fresh chives, fresh thyme, and fresh parsley and it makes for a lovely soda bread. Darina even suggests using caramelized onions, black olives...all manner of things. I also make a version of the called Spotted Dog which has raisins or currants instead of the herbs and is also lovely. I usually end up using about 13 ounces of the buttermilk, but it does depend on the weather , the flour, how you measure, etc. This is a very forgiving dough.Do not worry it is really hard to mess this up. It is great leftover toasted in the morning... If I had to choose one...it would be the herbed bread hands down!
Herbed White Soda Bread Recipe by Darina Allen
Ingredients 3 1/4 cups unbleached flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons freshly chopped herbs, such as rosemary, sage, thyme, chives, and parsley 12 to 14 ounces buttermilk
Directions Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, make a well in the center and pour all of the buttermilk in at once. Using 1 hand, stir in a full circle starting in the center of the bowl working towards the outside of the bowl until all the flour is incorporated. The dough should be soft but not too wet and sticky. When it all comes together, a matter of seconds, turn it out onto a well-floured board. WASH AND DRY YOUR HANDS. Roll dough around gently with floured hands for a second, just enough to tidy it up, flip the dough over. Pat the dough into a round about 1 1/2-inches deep. Sprinkle a little flour onto the center of a baking sheet and place the loaf on top of the flour. Cut a deep cross on it with a sharp knife, prick the four sections to let the fairies out. Let the cuts go over the sides of the bread to make sure of this. (This is important...you must let the fairies out!)
Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 400 degrees for 20 minutes, or until just cooked. If you are in doubt, tap the bottom of the bread: if it is cooked it will sound hollow. Cool on a wire rack.
Spotted Dog Make the recipe as above..... leave out the herbs....but add
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar to the dry ingredients
3/4 cup raisins, currants, or golden raisins...toss with dry ingredients after they have been combined.
1 egg, free range is possible (optional - you will not need all of the milk if you use the egg)If using the egg, place in measuring cup and beat slightly and then fill the cup with the buttermilk until you have about 14 ounces all together. You may not have to use all of it. But I usually do... Serve spotted dog freshly baked, cut into thick slices and smeared with butter. Please excuse these pics... they are from last year and the year before and I was not always as in focus as I should have been, and there are a few smudges on the lens from flour,etc...but that's what you get when you bake and try to take pics at the same time!... you get the idea.