Originally published March 16, 2014.
Soda bread is plain quick bread, bread made with a chemical leavener like baking soda instead of yeast.
You’ve no doubt heard of Irish soda bread. The two defining characteristics of the national bread of Erin are 1) the inclusion of lesser parts of the wheat berry, such as the germ and husk, and 2) the use of buttermilk.
One way that my soda bread differs from true old-school Irish soda bread is the inclusion of such luxuries as butter, eggs, and honey. This is emphatically not traditional, but it makes for a moist, delicious bread. Picture a fine cornbread, only instead of corn meal there are coarse bits of wheat germ. The wheat germ gives the bread a slightly yellow hue.
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Another Soda Bread Recipe
- 165 g all-purpose flour
- 105 g whole wheat flour
- 30 g wheat germ
- 12 g baking powder
- 2 g baking soda
- 8 g kosher salt
- 50 g unsalted butter, melted
- 140 g whole milk
- 125 g buttermilk
- 30 g egg
- 15 g honey
- 30 g sour cream
- Combine the dry ingredients, the flours, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, in a medium mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre.
- Combine the wet ingredients, the melted butter, whole milk, buttermilk, egg, honey, and sour cream, in a separate bowl. Whisk thoroughly.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, then mix with a spatula until just combined. Do not over-mix!
- Transfer batter to a buttered baking vessel and bake at 375°F until the centre of the bread is set, roughly 30 minutes, though exact times will depend on the dish you have selected.
Cornbread has developed a regional connotation in North America: the mere mention of the dish awakens borrowed images of the American south. I resent this, because I know that my dad ate cornbread growing up in eastern Ontario. They called it johnnycake, which is a very old, eastern North American term derived (we think) from “journey cake,” referring to the dry bread’s portability.
The bulk of the transcendent cornmeal we made this fall was baked into cornbread and consumed with butter and maple syrup. Below is my go-to recipe. It makes a moist bread (mostly on account of the several types of fat in the recipe: full-fat milk and buttermilk, sour cream, canola oil…) with a fine texture and the characteristic cornbread crumble. The subtle sweetness, distinct corn flavour, and flaky texture of the homemade cornmeal made this the single best loaf of cornbread that I’ve ever put in my face.
- 165 g all-purpose flour, sifted
- 135 g cornmeal
- 40 g dark brown sugar, pressed through a mesh strainer to remove large clumps
- 13 g baking powder
- 3 g baking soda
- 6 g salt
- 115 g whole milk
- 115 g full-fat buttermilk
- 165 g sour cream
- 100 g eggs (2 large eggs…)
- 50 g neutral canola oil
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a loaf pan or terrine and line it with parchment paper.
- Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Combine the wet ingredients in another.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Stir until all ingredients are combined. Do not over-mix.
- Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.
- Bake until the centre of the cornbread is set (the toothpick test is pretty much infallible) and the top is lightly browned, 30-50 minutes, depending on the shape and weight of your cooking vessel.
- Let the cornbread cool before turning it out of the vessel.
- Consume with butter and maple syrup, as seen below.
1. Civitello, Linda. Cuisine and Culture, Second Edition. ©2008 John Wiley and Sons, Inc. Page 152.