Soda Bread Farls

There are many things I miss about Northern Ireland.  Obviously, mainly my family and friends but there are other things too.  Some of them I can make myself, but others I can’t.

While I would still love to have an Ormo Soda Farl this recipe helps with my homesickness.  This morning I felt the need for something from home.

The recipe is very quick to make, and of course, I forgot to bring my camera to the kitchen so couldn’t get a picture of the dough being formed.  But my need for soda bread took precedence over my need to take pictures.

I made these morning and had one for breakfast, sliced and lightly fried with a fried egg.  Okay, two fried eggs.  And HP sauce.  I was craving the healthy stuff…

I still feel lonely for home, but it helped a little.

Soda Farls
• 450 g / 1 lb / 3 1/2 cups flour (either cake flour or all-purpose)
• 1 teaspoon sugar (optional: you can absolutely omit this if you prefer sugar free soda bread)
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
• Between 200-300 ml / 8-10 fluid ounces buttermilk, sour / soured milk, or plain (“sweet”) milk, to mix

Sift the dry ingredients together at least once or twice to make sure the bicarbonate of soda is evenly distributed.

Put the sifted dry ingredients in a good big bowl (you want stirring room) and make a well in the center.

Pour about three-quarters of the buttermilk or sour milk or whatever in, and start stirring. You are trying to achieve a dough that is raggy and very soft, but the lumps and rags of it should look dryish and “floury”, while still being extremely squishy if you poke them.

Add more liquid sparingly if you think you need it. (You may need more or less according to conditions: local humidity and temperature, the absorptiveness of the flour you’re using, etc.)

Blend quickly (but not too energetically!) until the whole mass of dough has become this raggy consistency. Then turn the contents of the bowl out immediately onto a lightly floured board or work surface, and start to knead.

The chief concern here is speed: the chemical reaction of the bicarb with the buttermilk started as soon as they met, and you want to get the bread into the oven while the reaction is still running on “high”.

Don’t overknead!

You do not want the traditional “smooth, elastic” ball of dough you would expect with a yeast bread. You simply want one that contains almost everything that went into the bowl, in one mostly cohesive lump.

You should not spend more than half a minute or so kneading… the less time, the better. Fifteen seconds may well be enough, because you don’t want to develop the gluten in the flour at all. If you do, you’ll get a tough loaf. So don’t overdo it!

Don’t be concerned if the dough is somewhat sticky: flour your hands, and the dough, and keep going as quickly as you can. There is a whole spectrum of “wetness” for soda bread dough in which it’s possible to produce perfectly good results: farl in particular sometimes rises better if the dough is initially wet enough to be actively sticky. You may have to experiment a few times to come to recognize the right texture of dough.

Shaping the bread to make farls.

Form the dough into a circle and use a very sharp knife to slice cut the circle of dough into four wedges. Try not to crush or compress the dough where you cut it (if the knife is sharp enough, you won’t).

Baking farl on the griddle.

Dust the hot griddle or frying pan with a very little flour, and put the farls on/in gently. The cut edges should be 1/2 inch or so apart to allow for expansion.

Give the farls 20 minutes on a side. They should be a sort of mocha-toasty color before you turn them.

Keep an eye on the heat — they scorch easily.

When finished, take the farls off the heat and wrap them in a light dishtowel, hot side down. (The residual steam works its way up through the soda bread and softens the crust formed by the process of baking on the griddle, making it more amenable to being split and toasted later.)

The soda bread is wonderful sliced or split and served hot, with sweet butter and/or the jam or jelly of your choice. 

Or my favourite for home sick days, split, fried and served with a fried egg and brown sauce. 🙂

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