In honor of St. Patrick’s day, apparently there’s been a debate raging about soda bread. The conclusion is that once you start adding things beyond flour, buttermilk and baking soda, it’s not traditionally Irish. Well, that’s fine with me. I added zaatar and sun-dried tomatoes to mine, and I make no claims of Irish authenticity. This is the Levant, after all.
Soda bread has a major advantage — it’s quick and easy. I wanted bread for breakfast, and this took max 30 minutes from start to finish. No kneading, rising, kneading rising again …. With that, I should note that since it uses baking soda and not yeast as the leavening agent, it has a taste of baking soda, not yeast. That means it comes out slightly salty. This is either an advantage or a disadvantage, depending how you look at it. But have I mentioned it’s quick?
A little bit about zaatar for those not in the Middle East — it’s a local kind of hyssop frequently used to season foods including breads and salads. When you purchase it as a dry spice, it often comes mixed with sesame seeds and salt. This photo is of the zaatar plant growing in my window box. It’s ridiculously healthy. I have no idea why.
Now, you can either shape this into a big loaf (as in the photo below), which needs 40 minutes to bake, or little rolls, which need about 15. I’ve always been a fan of expediency. I’ve listed quantities to make one roll first, and quantities for four rolls or a whole loaf in parenthesis.
25 grams (100 grams) white flour
25 grams (100 grams) whole-wheat flour
1/8 teaspoon (1/2 teaspoon) salt
1/4 teaspoon (1 teaspoon) baking soda
1/4 cup (1 cup) buttermilk or more
Optional additions for 1 roll (4 rolls/a loaf):
- 1/4 teaspoon (1 teaspoon) dried zaatar to sprinkle on top
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 teaspoons) dried zaatar to mix into the dough
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 teaspoons) pine nuts to sprinkle on top
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 teaspoons) dried coriander to mix into the dough
- 3 (12) finely sliced sun-dried tomatoes to mix into the dough (these would go well with any of the spices listed above
Mix all the ingredients together, adding enough buttermilk to form a dough.
Shape into a mound and put on a greased baking sheet. If you’re using pine nuts, press them gently into the top of the dough. Slash the top with a knife if you’d like.
Bake at 220 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes for rolls, or 40 minutes for a loaf — until the bottom sounds hollow when rapped (you know, usual bread procedure). Eat.
UPDATE: Here’s another variation. I got good results with 2 cups of whole-wheat four, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 2 teaspoons dried zaatar, 1 tablespoon sugar and enough buttermilk to form a dough.