Tuesday 24 December 2013

Soda bread - milling around

Dish of the day on Sunday featured Irish Soda Bread with St Maure de Touraine goat cheese and Forme d'Ambert blue cows-milk cheese. In photographing the various flours I used, I discovered I had flour from conventional mills, from a windmill, from a watermill and from an artisanal combimoulin.

Soda bread and cheese - a light lunch

To make the soda bread my starting ingredients were lait ribot, a Breton fermented buttermilk, and a coarse stoneground wholemeal flour from Mount Pleasant Windmill of Kirton-in-Lindsey, Lincolnshire, "specially milled for soda bread". The flour was somewhat past its sell-by date, and featured the odd bit of stalk as well as grain, but it was still perfectly OK. I mixed it half and half with spelt flour, having learned from my long-ago efforts with wholemeal bread which could have been used to build walls.


The French equivalent of wholemeal flour bears the code T150, for farine de blé complète.  We have T150 flour from Le Moulin Boutard, the last watermill operating today in Bourgueil.

It is increasingly common to find artisanal flour at farm shops, farmers' markets and producer co-operatives like the Biocoops, and TerreyFruits in Descartes. In seeking to diversify, cereal farmers such as the DuBois family at La Ratinière, Civray sur Esves, are investing in a compact milling setup to produce their own flour. This is even more marketable if they have AB (organic) status.

Fresh flour stone ground on the farm

A "combimoulin" has a set of millstones connected to a flour grader. The model on the flour packet above is "The Villandry". The whole operation is so compact that the producer can take a complete working demonstration of their products to agricultural fairs, farm open days etc. We saw this one in action at the environment fair in Le Blanc this summer.

Back to the soda bread - did you know that it's not of Irish origin at all, but was first baked by Native Americans using wood ash as a source of potassium carbonate? It's in Wikipedia so it must be true.

The recipe is based on that in "Best Ever Baking" by Carole Clements. In this recipe, fermented buttermilk provides the acid that reacts with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to generate carbon dioxide bubbles that make the bread rise. The dough is kneaded before going into the oven. You're often told not to knead soda bread, as it knocks the bubbles out of it. This bread rose nicely and was still moist on the third day - all too often, soda bread resembles a sanding block after a day.

Spelt flour, if you can get it, helps any bread to rise well. If you can't, use ordinary plain flour. For a lighter texture, increase the proportion of spelt flour to wholemeal.

8 oz/220gm spelt flour (or plain flour)
8 oz/220gm coarsely ground wholemeal flour
1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
1 oz /30gm butter or margarine, melted, at room temperature
10 fl oz/300ml buttermilk, or lait ribot (Breton: laezh-ribod), or tykmaelk (Danish) or runny yoghurt
1 tbsp plain flour, for dusting
Oven temperature 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6
Lightly grease a baking tray.
Stir together the flours, soda and salt. Make a well in the centre and pour in the butter and buttermilk. Using a fork, gradually mix in the flour, working outwards from the centre of the bowl until all the flour is incorporated into a fairly soft dough.
Flour a work surface and your hands. Form the mixture into a ball and place it on the work surface. Knead the dough for three minutes, flouring the surface again if the dough sticks. Form the dough into a flattened ball and place it on the tray. Using a sharp knife, cut a cross in the top of the ball to divide it into four portions. Dust with a little more flour.
Bake towards the top of the oven for 40 - 50 minutes, until brown. Check that the loaf is done by taking it out of the oven and rapping it underneath with your knuckles. If it sounds hollow, it's done.

Well risen

Take a chunk

What's next, I wonder?
Have a good Christmas!

1 comment:

Ken Broadhurst said...

Merry Christmas, Pauline and Tim.

Soda bread -- good idea. Thanks.