March 13, 2008
Each year for Saint Patrick's Day, I pull out my favorite Irish Soda Bread recipe and start baking. Sometimes, we'll even eat three loaves all before Saint Patrick's Day has even arrived. After so many years of a great baking tradition, why was I contemplating changing things? It all boiled down to a new challenge, the Irish Soda Farl. The farl is a soda bread cooked on a griddle placed either in or on the embers of the kitchen fire, whereas the cake form was cooked in the oven.
Soda bread can be found in a wide variety of versions from white or brown, cake or farl, and treacle or wheaten. Every day soda breads were eaten plain and those served for tea time were made with fruits. Many may know of soda farls as the bread served with the Ulster breakfast, an awe inspiring meal of fried foods.
I was set with a new recipe for a variation on one of my favorite breads. I began baking in a blast of happiness that didn't diminish as my first batch of farls turned out simply gorgeous. Yet all was not well, if the looks on my family's faces were anything to go by. One by one they meandered over to the kitchen trash can and said they were to horrible to save for the birds. I hurried to taste them and was shocked to find my tongue assaulted by the intense flavor of leavening. The writer of the recipe I had chosen used not only soda, but cream of tartar to ensure that the farls would rise to lofty heights. This was more than human taste buds could stand, so off I went in search of another recipe.
Late in the evening, I happened upon the website European Cuisines. They have a history of soda bread, a recipe and a few handy tutorials on YouTube for anyone interested in learning how to make farls. I made a quick note of how much leavening they used in their recipe and was delighted to see a much more tasty quantity. I worked up my gluten free conversion, selected my flours and off I went to try again.
This batch turned out richly colored and very tasty, with just a hint of soda. They were the perfect accompaniment to a breakfast of scrambled eggs and sausage. My husband and I enjoyed how the tang of the soda blended with the creamy flavor of the butter we spread on the farls. Our children, however didn't care for the slight tangy flavor of the bread at all. Which we thought was interesting, because they like sourdough.
Consider sharing a batch of Irish Soda Farls with those with whom you work, volunteer or simply in need of a kind gesture on April 12th, Spread the Bread's World Day of Bread.
Hot and crisp, soda farls are a wonderful way to start the day or to enjoy at a late afternoon tea time.
2/3 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup arrowroot starch
2/3 cup sweet rice flour
1 cup gluten free oat flour
2 tsp chia seed meal
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp agave syrup
1 cup + 3 Tb buttermilk, sour milk or soured nut, seed or grain milk*
1. If you are making farls, use a heavy duty griddle or skillet for cooking. If you are making soda cake, then cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. In a large bowl, dump in all the dry ingredients and stir well so that the soda is evenly distributed. Create a well in the center of the flour mixture.
3. Add the agave syrup to the measuring cup of buttermilk, sour milk or soured non-dairy milk. Stir together.
4. Pour about 3/4 of the milk mixture into the well and begin stirring. The dough should have a dry and slightly ragged appearance. Add the rest of the milk mixture to the bowl (if needed) and stir until the dough looks raggy.
5. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of parchment paper. Dust your hands with flour as you need to and work the dough just until it forms a cohesive ball. For large farls use one ball of dough, for smaller farls divide the ball into two smaller balls. Then press the dough into a circle that is about 1/2 inch high. Cut the circle in half and then cut it into quarters.
6. Preheat the skillet or griddle on medium low heat until a drop of water sizzles. Melt a bit of butter or shortening in the skillet or griddle. Then place the soda farls into the skillet or onto the griddle. Cook each side of the farls for 20 to 30 minutes. You may need to stand the farls on their edge or cut them in half to cook them all the way through. Keep checking the farls to make sure they aren't burning. If they start to burn, turn down the heat on the burner a little. Allow to cool before serving. Makes 4 large farls or 8 small farls.
* How to make soured milk or soured nut/seed/grain milk: Add 1 tsp white vinegar to 1 cup milk or non-dairy milk. If you don't have any white vinegar, then use regular milk or non-dary milk and 1/2 tsp of baking powder.