When I was starting to bake this month’s BBBabe bread, we had rather a long discussion about whether it was traditional to add an egg to Irish Soda Bread. I maintained that it was not. However, there ARE a number of soda bread recipes that do include an egg.
So, we decided to try altering the BBB soda bread recipe by substituting some of the buttermilk with an egg. And while we were at it, we decided to substitute the barbecue for the oven when baking the bread.
Soda Bread on the Barbecue
- In a largish bowl, whisk together 3½ cups (450gm) flour, 1 tsp (6gm) salt, 1 tsp baking soda.
- Crack and beat an egg into a pyrex measuring cup (it will be about ¼ cup)
- Pour 338 ml (~1½ cups) buttermilk into the beaten egg to make 400 ml (~1¾ cups) liquid. ¹
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry and use a wooden spoon to quickly mix them together. Not much stirring will be necessary.
- As soon as the dough has come together, turn it out onto a lightly floured board. With your (clean) hands, gently roll the dough into a ball. Then pat it gently down into a disc shape, about 5 cm (2 inches) high.
- Cut a deep cross into the middle of the disc. Place the shaped bread on a parchment papered cookie sheet.
- baking Preheat the barbecue to high. Place the bread tray over direct heat, close the lid of the barbecue and bake for about 5 minutes ². Then move the tray over to cook with indirect heat (lid down again) until the bread is done (about 20-25 minutes) until a skewer put into the center of the bread comes out cleanly and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. (our gas barbecue can be turned off on one side).
1.) Egg: We felt that the egg added little to the final result and will be unlikely to include it again. Buttermilk and baking soda are all that are required for leavening the bread, which is beautifully moist, even without an added egg.
2.) Baking: Do watch that the bottom of the loaf doesn’t burn when the tray is over direct heat. It is very close to the heat source, after all. edit 18 June 2011: When baking on the barbecue, watch for hotspots and move the tray around to keep the bread from burning on one side.
We couldn’t believe the rise that the bread got!! I’m sorry that I didn’t take a photo of it just after shaping to show the difference. But it easily tripled in depth. (So did the herbed soda bread leavened with just buttermilk and baking soda.)
We sliced and served the bread hot with barbecue-wokked asparagus, a pork chop and a garnish of herbs from the garden. And plenty of butter for the bread for those who like butter. (Just in case you’re wondering, that is 100% of the current occupants.)
No surprise that dinner, once again, was delicious.
But the amazing thing about the bread is that we didn’t really taste all that much difference with the added egg. The bread might have been a little tenderer but then again, it might have been pretty much the same.
Next time I make Soda Bread, I won’t bother adding the egg. But we WILL bake it in the barbecue. That is definitely worth the effort, especially in the summer when we don’t want to be heating up the kitchen by turning on the oven.
The next morning we steamed the last few stems of the “2 bunches for $3” Ontario asparagus we had (I love asparagus season! I might neeeeeed to buy another 2 bunches…), smothered it with goat’s cheese sauce (with a little cheddar for colour) and served it with sliced hard boiled eggs on toasted soda bread. Oh my.
After our experiment, I did a little research about the idea of adding an egg to soda bread to try to find out when and where this egg addition to soda bread started.
Surprisingly, there is nothing in the index about Ireland or the history of soda bread in Adrian Baily’s book, “The Blessings of Bread” about the origins, history and folklore of bread. There IS a recipe for Irish soda bread though, that simply calls for flour, buttermilk, baking soda and salt.
Both the Silver Palate and Joy of Cooking cookbooks call for an egg (as well as sugar and butter!) In her Bread Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum calls for butter and sugar. In the March 2001 issue of SAVEUR, there is a recipe for Irish soda bread that calls for egg, sugar, raisins and butter. Here is what appears at the head of the recipe:
Ever since soda bread, that staple of the Irish dining table, was invented in the 1800s, it seems there are nearly as many “traditional” recipes as there are Irish families. Some are simple concoctions incorporating little more than flour, baking soda and buttermilk, while others boast the additions of various fruits and spices. This raisin-studded incarnation comes from a former SAVEUR staffer, who learned it the way such dishes should be – from her grandmother.
SAVEUR magazine, issue #49, March 2001
But I can’t stop thinking about the fact that the Irish have been more inclined to make the bread with “little more than flour, baking soda and buttermilk”. And that perhaps it wasn’t until coming to America that Irish immigrants began to add more ingredients to their standard soda bread. Not to mention that the former SAVEUR staffer’s grandmother was likely descended from Irish immigrants to America.
We have been reading in Laura Schenone’s book “A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove” about the sudden bounty of food in America for immigrants in the 19th century. And we are speculating that this is the reason why eggs and butter and fruit began to appear in so many “traditional” recipes for Irish soda bread.
[M]ore than 23 million immigrants came to the United States […] because they were politically persecuted, because they had lost family farms, because they had been pushed out of their artisan trades, and because they were poor. More often than not, they came because they were hungry. […] [M]illions of Irish women […] came to fill the ranks in America as cooks and domestic servants. […] Most came from bare huts on country lanes and had never laid eyes on a roasted goose or a plum pudding – never mind knowing how to cook such things.
The overwhelming abundance of food in the United States shocked many immigrants. Not only did it come in a large supply, but also it came cheaply – at least when compared with the high prices where they’d come from. amreican markets overflowed with vegetables, fruits, eggs, fish, milk and – most coveted of all – meat. […] Word spread to villages back home that Americans ate cake for breakfast, huge quantities of soft white bread, and meat every day. The desire and expectaiton to eat abundantly came to express the very essence of America.
-Laura Schenone, A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove, “Give Her Your Hungry”, p 204, 208, 209, 216
Aha!!! I know you can’t believe everything you read but I always like to believe the things that happen to agree with my argument.
If your “soda bread” has raisins, it’s not “soda bread! It’s called “Spotted Dog” or “Railway Cake”! If it contains raisins, eggs, baking powder, sugar or shortening, it’s called “cake”, not “bread.” All are tasty, but not traditional Irish Soda Bread! […] The basic soda bread is made with flour, baking soda, salt, and soured milk (or buttermilk). That’s it!
– sodabread.info, Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread
Each week, Susan (Wild Yeast) compiles a list of many bread-specific recipes from across the web. For complete details on how to be included in the YeastSpotting round up, please read the following:
Really?! I’ve never droned on about how we make cheese sauce?! Aside from T’s bizarre idea of cheese sauce for asparagus: “processed cheese slices melted into a white sauce”. (Brrrrr.)
Happily for me, T made a special cheese sauce for me – melting goat’s cheese and a little cheddar into white sauce (aka béchamel sauce).