Irish soda bread was the first bread I tried when I started playing with my new microwave oven a long time ago. The soda bread that I tried following a recipe published in Femina, turned out to be a distant relative of bread. The shape, the texture and the taste is still fresh in my memory as I swore to never bake a soda bread again. Yeast was a better friend as I had watched it under microscope too and was fascinated how it grows and multiplies. I searched and got fresh yeast and the rest is history.
And then I started baking a few soda breads again. It happened recently. And that was because I was getting many requests to post easy breads on this blog as well. In my experience and opinion, all breads are easy and enjoyable once you know what are you doing with your dough, the time taken differs though. Kneading the dough perfectly, folding it and then proving it takes time but all the time is well worth because you get great bread at the end of this.
Not to loose heart, soda breads are also great tasting. If made along with some herbs and sun dried tomatoes or anything flavorful you would be surprised to see how this bread becomes a favorite.
Actually I made a second focaccia with rose petals and black grapes and had a slice with home made strawberry preserve and to my surprise it took me back to my childhood when we used to eat bread and jam sometimes. Bread was mostly a picnic food in my childhood and this focaccia and strawberry preserve reminded me of those old times. Eons ago.
I knew instantly that I should share the recipe here for the beginner bread bakers. Or even for busy parents who want home baked breads for the family and don't want to spend time slaving the dough. I am reminded of a mail I received some time ago from a male reader of mine who said that my recipes are so easy they can be easily executed by busy working men. Now that's a good change I can see in my countrymen. This complement made me smile wide :-)
2.5 cup whole wheat
(I used chakki wala atta,i.e, locally milled flour) which is coarsely ground, along with the bran)
1/4 cup wheat bran
3/4 cup or more sun dried cheri tomatoes
(preserved without oil, this was my last years home made stash)
1 cup chopped parsley
2 generous pinches of dried rosemary
2 tsp finely chopped garlic (optional)
1/2 cup heavy cream
or butter or use the Olive oil if using oil preserved sun dried tomatoes
1 tsp salt or to taste
2 tsp soda bicarb
2 cups whey* (the watery residue after making home made paneer)
Some olive oil or melted ghe eto drizzle over the bread, about 2 tsp
*The whey also had some fat because some of the milk fat comes to whey even if I use 3% milk.
- Mix the flour, bran and soda bi carb well. Add the sun dried tomatoes, chopped herbs and dry herbs, salt , mix well with fingers or a wire whisk. Keep aside.
- Rub the heavy cream (I actually used the home made malai) into the flour mix lightly.
- Preheat the oven on maximum temperature while you move to the next step with the dough.
- Grease a wide baking dish, round or rectangular which is wide enough to accommodate this quantity of dough. A bigger baking tray will also be good but you don't need to spread the bread dough till the edges in that case.
- Pour the whey slowly and knead a tacky sticky dough using your fingers and palm quickly. Do not knead too much as this will allow the air bubbles to escape. Just mix everything quickly to bring them all together into a sticky dough. you might use more or less whey depending on what kind of atta (whole wheat flour) you are using.
- Slap the dough into the greased dish, flatten using your knuckles and fill up the dish till the margins. If using a bigger baking tray, just spread the dough till it comes to 3/4 inch thickness. It will bake and become about 1.25 inch thick.
- Drizzle some Olive oil or melted ghee over the flattened dough, brush all over and slide the dish into the hot oven. Bring down the temperature to 180 C and bake for about 25-30 minutes. Keep a watch after 25 minutes and take out the dish as soon as it browns well.
- I baked this bread in night and wrapped it with a cling film. This picture was taken the next day.
The bread was loved dearly by friends and the husband. The best way to eat this bread is with extra virgin olive oil. A basil pesto will be the next best partner in crime.
Soak the bread with good quality EVOO and enjoy. I don't eat much breads but loved a couple of these.
Arvind loved it more with butter though.
The extra virgin olive oil here is a special garlic and rosemary infused oil that keeps well for a month or more.
A cup of garlic cloves and a tbsp of dried rosemary is heated with 250 ml of EVOO on very low temperature in oven for a long time. At 90 C for about an hour and half.
I kept this jar of the mixture in the oven along with some green pea pods placed on the grill. The peeled roasted green peas tasted great with this garlic and rosemary infused EVOO.
Soak the bread well in the infused olive oil. Or have it with cheese or butter. The bread makes good lunch box meal as well. In that case soak the bread with this infused oil or butter them and then pack them. Tastes good at room temperate too. Warmed up or toasted tastes a lot better though.
And have those softened garlic cloves as well. You can mash them with fresh herbs to make a dip.
For the black grapes and rose petals Focaccia I used the whey that we get after making hung curd. I had made some strawberry yogurt that day and wanted to experiment with the focaccia. Normally I mix mint powder and some pink salt to the hung curd whey and drink it.
This focaccia was also great in texture and taste though I was skeptical about how black grapes and celery that I used with this one, will combine together. But they did, though celery got masked by rose petals, so you might skip parsley. I used just the celery leaves not the ribs that too because I had it fresh from the garden.
1.5 cups of halved black grapes, dried petals of four fragrant roses from the garden, handful of celery leaves and everything just the same as the above recipe.
The strawberry preserve is a basic jam recipe, cooking sugar and chopped fruit together, so nothing new. You can always make it even in the microwave.
This soda bread focaccia is a keeper recipe. Whole wheat goodness, lesser time required and great taste It actually takes only about 15 minutes preparation time. Baking time is not actually work.
Do try and let me know. You will be delighted if you are a beginner bread baker.
Edited to answer Rachna's questions :
- You can use stir fried and dehydrated fresh tomatoes as well, if you don't have sun dried tomatoes. Tomato slices arranged on top of this bread bake really well. I have baked sliced tomatoes on top of focaccia countless times and it looks great. Though you can use any dried vegetable of fruit like chopped prunes, a mix of raisins and walnuts etc etc. Fried or sauteed onions are also great.
- The bread keeps well for a week or more if refrigerated. I have kept it for 2 days at room temperature too but I wont take any chances with Indian climate.
- wrapped in a cling film or sliced and kept in a airtight dabba is a good way to store this bread, after cooling it completely. Wrapping it loosely with parchment would be ideal.