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Cornmeal gives this soda bread a Southern drawl

Kate Williams, Southern Kitchen
Cornmeal gives this soda bread a Southern drawl
PHOTO: Kate Williams/Southern Kitchen

It’s early March, which means most of us are either complaining about the weather or plotting out St. Patrick’s Day plans. Whether that means cozying up at home with a pot of lamb stew and slice of soda bread or heading out to the bars for green Guinness (please don’t), this late winter holiday offers a slight respite from the stir-crazy nature of the month.

Soda bread can be made in what feels like mere minutes (especially if you’ve been spending most of your time baking long-rising no-knead bread and pizza). At its most basic, it is made from flour, salt, leavening and buttermilk. Swap in cornmeal for the flour and you’ll have the most bare-bones, traditional cornbread you can make. These are breads borne of necessity, made from affordable pantry ingredients and only occasionally doctored up with extras.

Sure, most soda breads you’ll find bouncing around bakeries this time of year contain all manner of sweeteners and nutty or fruity additions, but, at its core, it is a basic bread. And a delicious one, if you make it right.

To give our soda bread a slight Southern accent, we’ve taken a cue from its cousin and added a scoop of yellow cornmeal to the mix.

This addition makes for a slightly more dense bread, with a subtle sweetness and hint of nuttiness. We’ve also followed the direction of the brilliant Stella Parks at Serious Eats, who makes her soda bread with more than a pint of buttermilk — her ultra-wet-and-sticky dough bakes up far more bread-like than the more common muffin-ish soda breads. You’ll be able to slice it for a sandwich or dunk it into a stew without crumbling.

The trick to keeping the dough contained is to bake it in a parchment-lined Dutch oven, or, if you’ve got it, a deep cast iron skillet with a lid on top. As with our no-knead bread, this vessel traps the steam evaporating from the baking bread, which helps to create a deeply golden brown, crackling crust that’ll splinter and fly across your cutting board.

In fact, bake this bread once and you may just become addicted to its ease, simplicity and well-rounded flavor. You just may keep baking it long past March 17.

Southern Soda Bread

The addition of cornmeal brings a subtly sweet and nutty flavor to this tradtional Irish favorite.

Serves: 6 to 8

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 1/4 cups buttermilk

 

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Line the bottom of a large Dutch oven with parchment paper; it is fine if the paper comes up the
sides of the pot.

In a large bowl, thoroughly whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt and baking soda. Stir in the buttermilk until the dough is moistened and no dry flour remains. The dough will be very sticky.

Pour the dough into the Dutch oven and use a spatula to mold it into the shape of a round loaf. Use a sharp knife to deeply score the loaf into quarters.

Cover the pot and bake until the bread is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to bake until it is deep brown and the center registers 210 degrees, about 10 minutes. Turn the bread out onto a wire rack, remove the parchment paper, and then flip so that the bread is right side-up. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before serving. The bread is best eaten on the same day it is baked, but you can keep it for up to 2 days in an airtight container; toast leftovers before serving.

Note: We used yellow cornmeal in this recipe.

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