Spotted Dog – An Irish Soda Bread

Spotted Dog - Irish Soda bread
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St. Patrick’s day and  the corner bakeries  are   selling the Irish  Soda  breads  again.  I remember  the  first time  I made  soda  bread – around 15  years  back.  Yeast  breads  were  very intimidating  then, and  these  breads  were  such a  morale  booster!  No worries  about  kneading  and  resting  an   all that, just  mix  everything  and  bake.

Spotted Dog - Irish Soda bread

Even though the  stores  here  call it Irish Soda  Bread  it is  really  not  the  everyday bread, but  the  sweetened  cousin  Spotted  Dog.  It is   a  little  tender  and  sweeter  than  your  everyday  bread, but  still very  rustic  not  to mention delicious. I think  the   name  refers  to  the  specks  of   dried  fruit in the  bread.  I am  sure   you can make  it   in  the dutch oven  on the  stove  top  if  needed  – should  try it  over  the  campfire  once.

When the  protein content  in the  flour  is  low   not  enough gluten   can  be  created  for the  soft  yeast  bread  structure.  Such flours  create  dense  yeast  breads, but  on the  other  hand  these   make  good  cookies  and   cakes.  In other  words leavening  with baking  soda  is  the  way to go.

The  other  point  in favors  of  these  breads  is that  they require   much less  time  and effort. There is  no kneading  to develop gluten  – in fact  you  should  knead  it  as  little  as  possible.   There is no  waiting  for the  dough  to rise  multiple  times or  the  stretch  and  folds  to  align the  gluten  strands  properly.

Before I forget  here is one  more thing  going  for  these   breads –  you could even  start  with  cold ingredients. Imagine that –  eggs  and  buttermilk right  out  of  the  fridge  and  in the  time  it  takes   for the  oven  to  heat  up  you have  the  bread  ready to go in !   Making  bread  under 1  hour  is something  indeed !

Spotted Dog Steps
Initially I used  to  follow   my the  cake  baking instincts and  coat  the  raisins   in flour  and  add  to  the   mix – now  I just  dump  everything  into the  sifted  flour  mix.  Sifting  is  not  something  you want  to ignore though –  especially since   a  bare minimum of  kneading  is  used  to make  the  dough.  Sift  flour, salt  and  baking  soda  together  and   stir  well to  mix.

After that it is  free  for  all –  mix  everything  in ,  shape  and  bake :-).

If  you have   wide enough bowl  pat  the  dough into a   disc int he bowl itself  and  invert  on to  the baking  sheet.  Other  wise  tip the  mixed   dough  onto a  floured  surface  and  gently form  into a a  disc  about 1 to 1 1/2  inch  thick.  Transfer to the  baking  sheet.

I am  sure  there are  bakers  who can  make  this  dough   without   getting  their  fingers  sticky.  As  for  me I mix  the   flour  and   liquids  using a  spatula   and  once  the  it  is   almost  wet  get  in there  with my fingers  to bring  all the  pieces  together  and  shape.  So yes – my fingers do get a   little  sticky.

These  breads  are  baked on  higher  temperatures  than  the  standard  bread  loaf.  The  cooking  time  changes  depending on the  thickness  of  the  bread  as  well.  I prefer  to  keep the shaped  dough  at  around  1 1/2  inch  thickness .   These  usually get   cooked  in 30 minutes.  Thicker  breads  need  longer  cooking  time   and  might  need  to  cook  longer  at  lower  temperatures  to  get  the  center cooked  properly.

  When   done ,  the  crust will be light  brown.  Tap the   bottom  of  the  loaf  and  it   should   sound  hollow.  If  by any chance the  top has  become  dark brown and  bottom  is  still pale, invert  the  bread  on the  pan   and  bake  for  5 to 10  10 minutes. Cool  for a  few minutes    on the  rack   serve   with a  dollop of  jam / butter.
Spotted Dog - Irish Soda bread
About  the  cross on the  top –  they  say it helps  to  get the  devil,  or  was it the  faeries,   out ..  Do I  really want  these  taken out – perhaps  not , but  the  cross   does  help the   loaf spread  out  evenly in all  directions.  If  you still think it is  a  bad  idea  use an  X to mark the  spot  😉   or  better  yet   make a  spiral or  something  symmetrical !
Spotted Dog
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
50 mins
 

A lightly sweet  and  soft  quick bread leavened with baking  soda. 

Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: European
Servings: 1 Loaf
Author: Syama
Ingredients
  • 450 g All Purpose Flour 4 - 4 1/2 C
  • 1 1/4 Tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Tsp Salt
  • 2 Tbsp Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 C Butter Milk
  • 3/4 C Water As Needed
  • 1 Tsp Caraway Seeds Optional
  • 3/4 C Raisins/currants
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
  2. In a large mixing bowl sift together the flour, baking soda and salt . Sift 2 more times to aerate the flour really well. Add the sugar and stir to uniformly combine. Gently rub the caraway seeds in the palm of your hands and add to the flour mix. Add the fruit to the flour and use a spatula in circular motion to mix uniformly .

  3. Break the egg into a small bowl and beat well. Add the butter milk to the egg mixture and stir .

  4. Make a well in the middle of the dry mix and slowly pour the liquids .Use a spatula or wooden spoon to gently stir to   combine the wet and dry ingredients with as few strokes as possible. Add the water as needed  until almost all the flour is moist and the dough comes together in a  big  lump. Flour the work surface and turn the shaggy dough out on it Flatten the dough using your hands to a circular disc of about 11/2" thickness.

  5. Transfer to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.Mark an X on the top with a sharp knife. Transfer to the oven, reduce the temperature to 400°F (200°C)and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or till done .When done the tops will be lightly brown and the bottom will sound hollow when tapped Cool on the rack for few minutes.

  6. Serve warm or cold ..
Recipe Notes
  • Use unbleached  flour 
  • Use just enough  water  to  just moisten all the  flour.

Notes :

  • Here is a  tip to  give  it a  nice  sheen –  Mix  an  egg  with 1  Tbsp   water  and brush  on top of  the  loaf   right  before  baking.
  • Work the   dough  quickly . Keep the  kneading  and  mixing to minimum.
  • Use  chopped  jumbo  raisins or  cranberries  for a  burst  of  color .
  • These  can be  sliced  and  toasted for 15 to 20 minutes in a  200°F(90°C)  oven  to make crunchy toasts  (fruity rusk). Serve  these   with coffee  or  tea.

 

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Spotted Dog - Irish Soda bread

Here is  another  quick bread  you might like

Cranberry Quick Bread

For  more  quick bread  recipes click here

This post  was  originally published on March 2016.


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