Irish wholemeal soda bread. Delicious bread of my childhood
Irish wholemeal soda bread.
Today I'm going to make a liar of myself. I declare in my profile that I will never publish recipes in my hubs. I'm about to show myself up as an unprincipled scoundrel before the entire world, by breaking my word to my loyal readership and all the Internet community. Yes folks, I'm about to write an article about bread and I'm even going to publish the recipe here as well. I may go to hell for this, but who cares? This Irish wholemeal soda bread is so delicious, it's almost criminal that I'm the only person who gets to eat it. So here goes.
Playing in Ireland. Eating wholemeal soda bread as well.
Some of you may think that I am a British subject. I do live in Gillingham Kent and I am a great fan of most things British including Her Majesty the Queen and the Royal family. I have however only lived in this country since 1986. Prior to that, my reprobate carcass resided in the Republic of Ireland. I was reared on a farm with four sisters and one brother and parents, as one should have. We all lived together in a beautiful old thatched farmhouse. We were surrounded by chickens and ducks and we got our milk straight from the cow. My mother made butter in a big wooden churn. All my various aunts did the same. It was a very self-sufficient sort of existence. Potatoes and vegetables came from our vegetable garden and every now and then a hen would suffer a stretched neck in order to be boiled for our Sunday dinner. Most of the cousins and the aunties and uncles, we used to visit, lived the same way we did ourselves. They all seemed to live in the country. Some of the aunties kept turkeys instead of chickens and one of the uncles kept pigs. There was always plenty of sausages and black pudding to eat when we visited his house. The summers were long and the lanes and the fields echoed with the laughter of playing children. We didn't have television and a visit to the cinema was a treat only once or twice a year. We got our excitement from seeing the Christmas turkey being killed, or from listening round a winter fire while an old uncle terrified us with stories of the many ghosts, that if he was to be believed, haunted every dark corner we might be brave enough to peep into. It was an idyllic upbringing really. There was very little money, but lots of fun. 21st-century children may have all the expensive gadgets that money can buy but I doubt very much that they can have quarter the fun and enjoyment that was the lot of my family as we were growing up.
Apart from making nicer butter than any of the aunts, my mother was a very good baker. We didn't have a birthday without a lovely iced birthday cake and her Christmas puddings were to die for. There were always plenty of scones and Madeira cakes; or little Madeira buns would be magiced out of the oven if a special visitor were to be expected. None of these delights ever saw the inside of a shop. We did get white bread. We were not that primitive. The bread man used to come three times a week, twice to deliver a sliced loaf and once on Fridays to be paid. I think the bill for the bread was about one shilling and six pence. You wouldn't get a mouldy crumb for that nowadays.
But, you're probably asking yourself, why is he wittering on about laughing children and ghost story telling uncles? Where is the recipe for the Irish wholemeal soda bread? I'm just about to come to that. Be patient.
The greater part of our bread consumption when I was young came from the brown bread that my mother used to bake. I remember that there were big sacks of wholemeal flour at the back of the kitchen. We probably managed to get through about four large cakes of brown bread every week. It was probably what gave us the energy, for the endless games of hide and seek and rounders, that we always seemed to be playing in those days. Now that I'm older and I'm living the sophisticated highlife in England, there isn't much I have left of my childhood days. I don't keep turkeys and no chickens cluck and scratch around my back door but I do still make the brown bread. It's just as delicious now as it always has been. I've slightly changed the recipe. I think my mother would still recognise it though. Here it is now, my gift to the world.
Recipe for Irish wholemeal soda bread.
2 cups of porridge oats.
6 cups of wholemeal wheat flour. (Coarse ground is best).
3 cups of milk.
Two heaped teaspoons of salt.
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda.
Two heaped teaspoons of sugar. (Use artificial sweetener if you prefer).
1 teaspoon of vinegar.
Use vinegar to sour the milk. Soak the porridge oats in the milk for a few hours. It softens the porridge.
After a few hours put the salt, the sugar and the bicarbonate of soda in and stir it up well.
But the wholemeal flour in and mix well with a wooden spoon.
Beat the eggs and fold them into the mixture last.
You should have quite a stiff mixture.
Grease two baking sheets. You can use one if you have got a very big oven.
You should have enough bread mix for about 12 or 13 rolls or baps.
I just scoop out little handfuls of the mixture to put on the sheets. It's a good idea to keep your hands wet because the bread mix can be a bit sticky.
Put into a preheated oven at gas mark six. I haven't got an electric cooker, but I think the equivalent would be about 350°C.
It takes about 40 to 45 min to bake. I would suggest changing the position of the baking sheets in the oven after about 15 to 20 min, just to get it evenly browned.
Five or 6 min before it is baked take it out and just turn the little bread rolls upside down. Pop them back in the oven for the last few minutes. This gives your bread a lovely all-round crustiness. When you take it out, just tap it on the bottom. It makes a nice hollow sound when it's perfectly baked.
Some Irish wholemeal soda bread. Made by me.
Variations on the recipe for Irish wholemeal soda bread.
When you take your bread out of the oven just leave it upside down to cool for a while. You can eat it hot if you want to. Cut the little rolls in half. Eat them with just butter or use any spread you like. They are scrumptious. I usually have a couple of them on the first day and then I put the rest of them in the freezer. 3 min on defrost in the microwave and they are perfect. It makes really lovely toast as well. I like to split the rolls and pop them in the toaster, or under the grill, occasionally. They are great for breakfast with some melted cheese.
The really handy thing about this recipe is that you can vary it to suit. Use less salt and more sugar and you can have delicious sweet cakes. For the sweet ones put in some dried fruit and crushed walnuts. Lovely! I even mixed some cocoa powder in to make lovely chocolate cakes. I'm going to try some cinnamon ones next week.
That's my recipe for wholemeal Irish soda bread. If you want to treat yourself give it a try. It's really easy to make. I wouldn't bother otherwise. I do have a life out of the kitchen you know.