Kernza Flour Gives Irish Soda Bread an American Twist
Several summers ago, while on a family vacation to Ireland, I tried to buy soda bread, but could find none.
I searched tea houses, bakeries and pubs and was offered loaves of brown bread, scones and griddle cakes. “Soda bread is made in the home,” a server at Bewley’s tea house in Dublin informed me. “Why pay good money for bread that tastes best warm from the oven and that takes less time to make than it does to drive to the store?” she asked.
According to Irish cooking authority Darina Allen, soda bread was created to make quick use of soured milk in the years before refrigeration. These days, fresh buttermilk does the trick. Allen remembers her mother baking soda bread in the pot oven, or bastible, over an open fire and suggests using a heavy cast iron skillet to achieve the same dense golden crust and tender interior.
Traditional recipes make a “lean” dough for a very plain loaf. When you add butter, honey or treacle, along with caraway seeds and raisins, it’s called Spotted Dog. (Spotted is for the raisins; “dog” is slang for dough.) This is a loaf for special occasions — Sundays after church and high holy feast days, like St. Patrick’s.
Today’s recipe, inspired by Allen’s book “Forgotten Skills of Cooking,” uses a blend of Kernza flour, ground from the perennial wheat grass Kernza. Its flour has a nutty, sweet, toasty flavor that’s close to Irish wholemeal flour. Find it at Lakewinds Coops (lakewinds.coop) or online from Perennial Pantry (perennial-pantry.com). You can substitute whole wheat flour, if you wish, although Kernza’s texture is a bit rougher.