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For the month of September Meredith from the Poco Loco Olsons challenged us to experiment with soda bread. This quick bread relies on chemical reactions between baking soda and the acid in buttermilk (sour milk), so no yeast is allowed. Contrary to popular belief, soda bread was not invented by Irish bakers. In fact, food historians give credit of first using soda to leaven bread to the Native Americans, who used pearl ash to help their breads rise.

Traditionally, Irish soda bread can be white or brown, sometimes contains raisins, and often has a cross in the top of each loaf. White soda breads are often enjoyed at breakfast or to soak up stew at dinner. This recipe was taught to Meredith’s parents during their first trip to Ireland in 1985. It has since become a family favorite and never ceases to delight especially when eaten warm, smeared with freshly churned butter.

IRISH COUNTRY BREAD

Ingredients:

2½ cups (625 ml) sour milk or buttermilk

2 cups (500 ml) (300 gm) (10½ oz) whole wheat flour

4 cups (1000 ml) (600 gm) (21 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour

2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm) baking soda

1 teaspoon (6 gm) salt

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to hot 450°F/230°C or gas mark 8 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

  • Mix the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients.

  • Pour the sour milk/buttermilk into the well. Mix the dough until flour is completely incorporated.

  • It will be very stiff. Transfer dough to the prepared baking sheet. Pat the dough into a circle shape.

  • It should be approximately 1 inch/2½ cm thick. Now make several dimples in the top of the dough.

  • Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the preheated hot oven and bake bread for 30 minutes.

  • Reduce heat to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6. Pull baking sheet out from under dough.

  • The parchment will be directly on the oven rack. Bake for 10 more minutes or until golden brown.

Daring Bakers September 2015 Challenge

For the August challenge Susan from The Kiwi Cook dared us to make a Seed & Nut Loaf, a super-healthy and gluten-free alternative to standard wheat-based bread. The theme of both challenges this month is ‘whole and healthy’! It is a gorgeously dense and nutty whole-wheat bread with lots of taste and texture along with masses of protein and fibre but without gluten. It may be slathered with all sorts of delicious toppings, from avocado and tomato, to salmon and cream cheese, to home-made nut butter and mashed banana.

The psyllium husk is the ingredient that binds the loaf together in the absence of flour. If you use ground flax seeds instead of whole, you will need to add more water to the mixture. Oats are inherently gluten-free, however they can be cross-contaminated with wheat. If you are gluten-sensitive, ensure your oats are certified ‘gluten-free’. Buckwheat or spelt flakes make a good alternative. While you can use any nut, it is best to chop them finely; if the nuts are too big, it is harder for the loaf to hold together and you might end up with a crumbly loaf.

GLUTEN-FREE SEED & NUT LOAF

Ingredients:

1 cup (250 ml) (140 gm) ( 5 oz) sunflower seeds

½ cup (125 ml) (90 gm) (3 oz) flax seeds (linseeds)

½ cup (125 ml) (50 gm) (1¾ oz) sliced almonds

1½ cups (375 ml) (135 gm) (4¾ oz) gluten-free rolled oats

2 tablespoons (30 ml) (20 gm) (¾ oz) chia seeds

4 tablespoons (60 ml) (25 gm) (1 oz) psyllium seed husks

1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) fine grain sea salt

1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure maple syrup or liquid honey

3 tablespoons (45 ml) coconut oil or ghee, melted

1½ cups (375 ml) water

Method:

  • In a standard sized silicone, non-stick, or greased and lined loaf pan, combine all the dry ingredients.
  • Whisk maple syrup, oil and water together in a separate bowl. Add the mixture to the dry ingredients.

  • Combine until it is completely soaked and dough becomes very thick. Transfer mixture to the loaf pan.
  • Smooth top and cover pan with plastic wrap. Sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours or overnight.

  • The mixture should feel very firm to the touch. Preheat oven to moderate 180°C/350°F or gas mark 4.
  • Bake bread initially for 20 minutes. Take the loaf out of the oven, place a wire rack over top and invert.

  • Remove bread from pan and remove the lining paper if using. Put inverted loaf on its rack in the oven.
  • Bake the bread again for another 30 to 40 minutes. The loaf should be starting to brown on the outside.

  • This gives a nutty crunch to the finished loaf. It should sound hollow when tapped. Cool it completely.
  • Slice with a fine serrated knife and store in an airtight container (or in plastic wrap) for up to 4-5 days.

Daring Bakers August 2015 Challenge

For the month of December, Andrea from 4pure took us on a trip to the Netherlands. She challenged us to take our taste buds on a joyride through the land of sugar and spice by baking different types of Dutch sweet bread. Ontbijtkoek (literally translated breakfast cake) is an integral part of the breakfast table in Holland. Rye is (usually) its most important ingredient and gives the cake a light brown coloring. It is often spiced with cloves, cinnamon, ginger, succade (candied citrus peel) and nutmeg.

Several parts of the Netherlands have their own local recipe, of which the most famous is “Oudewijvenkoek” (old wives’ cake) which is mostly eaten in the northern regions, and is flavored with aniseed. Ontbijtkoek is traditionally served with a thick layer of butter on top, as a replacement for bread. Since I was short of time during this festive season, I had time to bake only one of the sweet Dutch breads which, I think, must be one of the most fragrant breads my kitchen has seen or rather, smelled of, till present.

ONTBIJTKOEK CAKE

Ingredients:

1 large egg, room temperature

1 tablespoon (15 ml) cane sugar syrup

1 cup less 2 tablespoons (220 ml) lukewarm water

1 tablespoon (15 ml) (½ oz) (15 gm) ground gingerbread spices

1¼ cup (300 ml) (8¾ oz) (250 gm) brown sugar, firmly packed

2 cups (480 ml) (8¾ oz) (250 gm) whole-wheat flour

1¾ teaspoons (8 gm) baking powder

Method:

  • Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4. Line a 30cm x 12cm baking tin with parchment paper.

  • Put the egg, syrup, water, spices and brown sugar in a bowl and whisk together until everything is dissolved.

  • Add whole-wheat flour and the baking powder into the bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon until the flour is wet.

  • Pour cake into prepared tin and bake in a preheated moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 oven for 70 minutes.

  • Take the cake out of the oven, allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes take cake out of the pan.

  • Let the sweet bread cool down to room temperature before slicing and serving. Makes 12 generous servings.

Merry Christmas Daring Bakers!

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PrerrnaMirchi
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