Irish Poppy Seed Soda Bread

Moderate

I've heard that in Ireland, you can find as many recipes for soda bread as cooks to make it. Traditionally cooked in a three-legged iron pot over a fire, soda bread is unusual in that it uses baking soda and buttermilk as leavening, instead of yeast, and requires no rising time. This lightly sweetened version mixes whole wheat and white flours with crunchy poppy seeds and a hint of orange. Children have an easy time making this recipe and they get to eat the fruits of their labor in just over an hour.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Baking time: 35 minutes
  • Cool time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 2 loaves
 

Do this first:

  • Grate the zest from 1 orange, as shown in the "Say yes to zest!" sidebar.
  • Lightly flour a cutting board or other surface for kneading the dough.

Ingredients and steps:

  • 2-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, preferably unbleached
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1-1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
 
  1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with nonstick spray.
  2. Combine the whole wheat and all-purpose flours, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and poppy seeds in a large bowl. Stir to mix them.
  3. Using clean fingers, sprinkle in the zest a bit at a time to prevent clumping together. Stir to mix.
  4. Stir the honey and buttermilk into the mixture until just absorbed.
  5. Pour the loose, soft dough mixture onto a lightly floured surface (don't worry if some of the flour is still dry, pour it onto the work surface as well). Dough will be sticky (what fun!). Knead the mixture until all ingredients come together as an evenly moist dough, about 3 minutes.
  6. Shape the dough into two smooth, even, round loaves. Place the loaves on the baking sheet.
 
Caution

7. Parents should perform the following tasks for small children: Using a sharp knife, cut an X across the top of each loaf. Bake the loaves for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the tops sound hollow when tapped and the center point of the X gives slightly, but no longer feels soft. Let stand 30 minutes before slicing.

 
Tip

When working with dough, flour your hands and the kneading surface lightly to keep the dough from sticking. This dough is exceptionally sticky, so expect your hands to be sticky too, even with light flouring. Don't keep adding flour to your hands or the dough will end up with too much flour.

 

Vary It! Try adding 1/2 cup raisins or using lemon zest instead of orange zest.

Tip

As a perfect example of naturally deep-flavored, lowfat cooking, this Irish Poppy Seed Soda Bread gets less than seven percent of its calories from fat. Because of its hint of sweetness, this loaf makes excellent cream cheese and apple sandwiches. Round out a dinner salad with a few warm slices, or toast it for breakfast with all-fruit preserves.

 

Recipes: Breakfasts, Brown-Bags, & Breads

 

Recipe © 1999 by Stephanie Zonis. Modified and published with permission by Kate Heyhoe.

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Part I: Cooking Together:
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