Like to try your hand at baking some soda bread for St Patrick's Day next Sunday? Traditional soda bread (with the cross in the top) is the most common bread in Ireland, developed in the 1840′s using bi-carbonate of soda instead of yeast. "Its shape comes from being cooked in a skillet and the cross on top was to let the fairies out,” says Paddy the Baker,(with a nod and a wink).
Preheat oven to 180°C. Place flours, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a medium large bowl. Make a well in the centre, pour in 400ml buttermilk and stir until combined. Add enough of the remaining buttermilk until mixture resembles thick porridge.
Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for two minutes to bring the dough together. Form into 2 x 20cm logs and place in 2 greased 22cm x 11cm loaf pans. Using a small knife, make a 3cm-deep cut down the centre of each loaf and scatter with oats.
Or you can form the dough into a round circle, and slash the top with the knife into a cross shape (this is the more traditional version).
Bake for 35 minutes or until light golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. The round loaf will need longer in the oven. Stand for 30 minutes before serving.
Note: Paddy uses Pepe Saya's buttermilk to make his soda bread. Stone-ground wholemeal flour will give a better, denser result with this soda bread.