*  Exported from  MasterCook  *
                              IRISH SODA BREAD
 Recipe By     : 
 Serving Size  : 1    Preparation Time :0:00
 Categories    : Breads                           Irish
   Amount  Measure       Ingredient -- Preparation Method
 --------  ------------  --------------------------------
    3 1/2   c            Flour
      1/2   ts           Sugar
      1/2   ts           Salt
      1/2   ts           Baking soda
    1 1/4   c            Sour milk -- to 2 1/2 cups
   Calories per serving:  154             Approx. Cook Time:  1:00
   “Sour milk” is milk that has had a couple of teaspoons of buttermilk
   stirred into it, has been put in a scalded container and wrapped in a
   towel, and left in some peaceful corner at about 75 degrees F for 24 hours.
   The original Irish name is *bainne clabhair*, “clabbered milk”, or
   “bonnyclabber” as the Scots have anglicized it.  The flavor isn't *quite*
   as tart as buttermilk, but there’s enough acid to make the bicarb react
   correctly.  If you don't have time to do sour milk, buttermilk will do
   perfectly well.  Sweet milk doesn't work as well, and your bread may not
   rise correctly:  if you're going to use sweet milk, use baking powder
   instead of bicarbonate of soda.
   First, decide whether you're making farl or cake.  If farl, find your
   heaviest frying pan (cast iron is best) and put it on to preheat at a
   low-medium heat. (You're going to have to experiment with settings. Farl
   should take about 20 minutes per side to get a slight toasty brown.) If
   making cake, preheat the oven to 450 F and find a baking sheet. Full
   preheating is vital for soda bread.
   Sift the dry ingredients together several times to make sure the soda is
   evenly distributed.  Put them in a good big bowl (you want stirring room)
   and make a well in the center. Pour about half the buttermilk or sour milk
   or whatever in, say about a cup and a quarter, and start stirring. You are
   trying to achieve a dough that is raggy and very soft, but the lumps and
   rags of it should look dryish and “floury”, while still being extremely
   squishy if you poke them. Add more liquid very sparingly if you think you
   need it. Blend until the whole mass of dough has become this raggy
   Then turn the contents of the bowl out immediately onto a lightly floured
   board, and start to knead. The chief concern here is speed: the chemical
   reaction of the bicarb with the buttermilk started as soon as they met, and
   you want to get the bread into the oven while the reaction is still running
   on “high”. DON'T OVERKNEAD.  You do not want the traditional “smooth,
   elastic” ball of dough you would expect with a yeast bread; you simply want
   one that contains almost everything that went into the bowl, in one mostly
   cohesive lump.  You should not spend more than a minute or so
   kneading...the less, the better. You *don't* want to develop the gluten in
   the flour.  If you do, you'll get a tough loaf. Once you're done kneading,
   shape the bread. For cake, flatten the lump of dough to a circle about 6-8
   inches in diameter, and put it on the baking sheet.  Then use a very sharp
   knife to cut a cross right across the circle: the cuts should go about
   halfway down through the sides of the circle of dough, so that the loaf
   will “flower” properly.
   If you're making farl, flatten the dough ball out to a circle big enough
   that the farls are about 3/4 inch thick.  Too thick, and they won't bake
   properly.  Then use the same very sharp knife to cut the circle of dough
   into four wedges.  Try not to crush or compress the dough where you cut it
   (if the knife is sharp enough, you won't). Then bake. When putting cake in
   the oven, handle it lightly and don't jar it: the CO2 bubbles are a little
   vulnerable at this point of the process. Let it alone, and don't peek at
   it. It should bake for 45 minutes at 450F. If making farl, dust the hot
   griddle or frying pan with a little flour, and put the farls in gently. The
   cut edges should be 1/2 inch or so apart to allow for expansion. Give the
   farls 20 minutes on a side;  they should be a sort of mocha-toasty color
   before you turn them.  Keep an eye on the heat -- they scorch easily. The
   heat should be quite “slow”. The farls will rise to about twice their
   original height. If you're making cake:  At the end of 45 minutes, pick up
   the loaf and tap the bottom.  A hollow sound means it’s done. For a very
   crunchy crust, put on a rack to cool. For a softer crust, wrap the cake in
   a clean dishcloth as soon as it comes out of the oven.
                                            per Diane Duane
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