Friday, September 13, 2002

Cooking Lesson Three: Bread!!

Note: this is one of a series of cooking articles I'd started posting before I had the blog set up. I turned them into blog entries to keep them on the site.

Add a jug of wine and your "thou" and you are all set (or; some stew, a blanket and a good tv show...all depends on the weather, really...)

Bread is, of course, one of the most basic foods. You can eat it anytime, with almost anything. Unfortunately (unless you have a bread machine, of course), making bread can be really time-consuming and, not at all easy. You've got the yeast, and all that kneading and rising and kneading and rising...but before there were yeast breads, there was something much simpler, quicker and easier to make -- soda bread!!

Soda bread is any bread that uses baking soda (there are also recipes that use baking powder) instead of yeast to make the dough rise in the oven. Because the physics involved are so different, preperation is entirely different also. Most soda breads are seriously as easy to make as throwing some stuff in a bowl, mixing it up, and baking it for half an hour. And fresh-baked bread is one of the best things in the world.

Here's how to make a simple white soda bread, good with butter and jam, excellent with soups, and probably good for anything else.

You will need: 3-1/2 cups of flour. (Just plain flour, not sifted or anything.) 1 teaspoon of baking soda. 1/2 teaspoon of salt. 1-1/2 cups of buttermilk. That's it!! After you've made this once, you could try experimenting, adding herbs, or dried fruit, or whatever you'd like to try.

Set the oven to 425 degrees, and sprinkle some flour on a baking sheet (aka cookie sheet), and on a counter or table you can work on. Mix the flour, salt and soda in a large bowl, and then add enough buttermilk to make it moist and clumpy. (Don't let it get slimy! You can add a touch more flour if it seems too wet, but you can only fix it so far.) Turn the dough out onto your floured work surface and knead it with your hands until it forms a large ball. Shape it into a circular patty, 6" across and 2" high. Using a sharp knife, cut an "X" across the top of the dough patty. Bake for about 1/2 an hour, until the bread is golden brown and sounds like a drum when you tap the bottom. Let it cool a bit before you start cutting it up. Now, wasn't that a cinch?

In the coming cold weather, try this bread with some thick stew, beef or vegetable.

You might also try making cornbread, which is another non-yeast bread. Any bag of cornmeal will have a decent cornbread recipe on the back, and cornbread is just as easy to make as soda bread. Try cornbread with chili! Or with the meal in lesson one.

Once you've mastered this simple soda bread, check out cookbooks for other soda bread recipes you can try. I really just do not have the time to make regular bread, but soda bread is just as good, and too cinchy not to try!!

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