Irish Soda Bread

“what her aunt has just set down in front of her is a plate covered with a kind of nearly transparent soup with a few pieces of hardboiled eggs floating in it.”

Michel Tremblay, Crossing the Continent, p.89

Recipe Notes (by Alexia Moyer)

This plate of eggs goldenrod, served to 10-year-old Rhéauna by her Tante Régina in Regina, Saskatchewan is, evidently, somewhat lacklustre.

But the bread is good. Delicious even.

What better way to tip our hats to Regina and to Saskatchewan, proverbial breadbasket that it is, than with a bread recipe?

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My bread making skills are slender, though I have been known to press the “on” button of my bread machine with a certain degree of panache.

But what kind of bread? This is where Shelley Boyd, my generous Regina-born colleague, extended a helping hand with her copy of Amy Jo Ehman’s Out of Old Saskatchewan Kitchens.

From the chapter, “Bread, Biscuits, and Bannock,” I have chosen the “Irish Soda Bread,” which uses baking soda as the leavening agent. It’s a quick bread. No need to wait for the dough to rise. As Ehman recounts, this was a staple of pioneer Saskatchewan kitchens, used particularly in months when yeast was like to freeze.

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I suspect that this bread will make regular appearances at our winter table – slathered in butter, the perfect accompaniment to soups and stews. On days where decadence is in order, I may even add raisins.

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Irish Soda Bread (from Amy Jo Ehman’s Out of Old Saskatchewan Kitchens)

Ingredients

  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • A tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups buttermilk

Instructions

  • Holding back 1/2 cup flour, blend the dry ingredients. Pour in buttermilk. Mix quickly with a fork and then your fingers, adding the remaining flour as needed to produce a dough that is not sticky.
  • Turn onto a floured surface and knead briefly, no more than a minute or two.
  • Place the ball of dough on a baking sheet. With a sharp knife, slash an X that is a good one-inch deep. The slash allows the bread to rise and ensures the centre is cooked.
  • Bake at 425°F for 35 – 40 minutes, until the bread is quite brown and a good tap on the bottom sounds hollow.

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Ehman, Amy Jo. Out of Old Saskatchewan Kitchens. Lunenburg: MacIntyre Purcell Publishing, 2014. Print.

Tremblay, Michel. Crossing the Continent. Trans. Sheila Fischman. Vancouver: Talonbooks, 2011. Print.

Photo Credit: Alexia Moyer

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