Brown Oatmeal Soda Bread

I’ve always enjoyed making soda breads, and have many recipes for them in my bread file. They’re truly quick and easy, and for a few moments I can pretend I am in a little white-washed cottage in the old country, bending over a peat fire, which, by the way, is the key to a really superlative loaf of soda bread, but here we can only do our best with gas or electric stoves. I like this recipe because, truth to be told, most soda breads are like big buttermilk biscuits, and aren’t terribly interesting. But this recipe, which is, with some modifications, from Gourmet Magazine, is made of whole wheat flour and oatmeal, and has a nubby, rough texture. It can stand up to a bitter orange marmalade, and cries out–almost sings “Danny Boy,”–for a smear of Irish butter. Okay, so I’m romanticizing here, but this is a good recipe.

There are no secrets or tricks that I know of to this recipe, except that the dough is a bit sticky to handle, and that’s okay. Just rinse your hands off a few times during the process of kneading and forming the dough, and you’ll be okay. I used imported Irish oatmeal for this, but can report that it looked exactly like my oatmeal from Aldi’s, and when I nibbled a few flakes, seemed to taste the same, as well. Also, when I buy whole wheat flour, I usually buy a small bag (2 lbs.) of Ceresota. This way, I never have a large bag of this flour sitting on the shelf for any length of time, drying out, or, depending on the weather, absorbing humidity. And perhaps it’s my imagination, but the fresh flour seems to taste nuttier.

Brown Oatmeal Soda Bread

Even after kneading, the dough will be somewhat rough textured.

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup  oatmeal (not instant)
2 cups buttermilk
1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the dry ingredients (except the oatmeal), and then stir in the oatmeal. Pour in the buttermilk, and then lightly beat the egg in the same measuring cup, and stir into the pool of buttermilk. Stir the whole mixture until it forms a dough. Lightly knead the dough in the bowl, until it forms a manageable but sticky dough. Slice the dough in half with a dinner knife while still in the bowl.

Shaped loaf, ready for the oven.

Form each half into round loaves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle each loaf with a handful of oats, and using a sharp knife, cut a cross into each loaf. Bake the loaves for 30 to 35 minutes. Check to see that the bottom of each loaf is golden, and that the tops are browned.

We had run out of butter when it came time to photograph this loaf, so I used some buttery spread as a stand in. Still tasted good. And you can see the tweedy texture of the finished loaf here.

Let the loaves cool completely before slicing.

And thanks to my friend Susan for these lovely pussy willows.

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