When someone suggested that I make soda bread for St. Paddy’s day, I have to admit, I cringed a little. I tried soda bread once, maybe twice, about ten years ago and it was a complete disaster. It was a ten pound, tasteless, brick-like disaster. But, I decided to be brave and try it again, with the help of the experts at Epicurious.
Their recipe for Brown Butter Soda Bread was nothing short of AH-MAZ-ING. Now I see what all the fuss is about!
If you’ve never had soda bread, it’s kind of like a big scone. It uses baking soda and/or powder for leavening instead of yeast, and it isn’t kneaded so it has a crumbly, scone-like texture. Couple that texture with the sweet, nutty flavor of browned butter and oats, and you’ve got one incredible bread! This recipe uses rosemary and black pepper for extra flavor, but I have no doubt that it would be just as good without them.
I made a couple of small changes to meet what I had on hand ingredient wise. First, instead of buttermilk, I substituted regular milk with lemon juice stirred in. This vital because you need the acid to activate the leavening power of the baking soda and powder. Second, I used some whole wheat flour, which I think added to the sweet, nutty, graham-like flavor of the bread. Lastly, I used dried rosemary instead of fresh.
Oh, and I also made one mistake – I baked one big loaf instead of dividing it into two smaller loafs. It still baked up fine, but it would be easier to divide into portions if it were in two smaller loafs.
Brown Butter Soda Bread
- 1¾ cups milk $0.66
- 1¾ Tbsp lemon juice $0.05
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour $0.56
- 1 cup whole wheat flour $0.15
- ½ cup old-fashioned oats $0.17
- 1 Tbsp sugar $0.02
- 1 tsp dried rosemary (optional) $0.05
- ½ tsp black pepper (optional) $0.02
- 2 tsp baking powder $0.10
- 1 tsp baking soda $0.05
- 1 tsp salt $0.05
- ¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter $0.40
- 1 large egg (optional) $0.23
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Stir the lemon juice into the milk and let sit until ready to use.
- In a large bowl, combine both flours, the oats, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, rosemary (crushed or chopped), and black pepper. Stir until combined.
- Place the butter in a small pot and melt over medium heat. Swirl and cook over medium heat until the butter turns golden brown and smells sweet and nutty. Turn off the heat.
- Pour the prepared milk and the browned butter into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir until it is thoroughly combined and no dry flour remains on the bottom of the bowl. The dough will be wet and sticky. Turn it out onto a well floured surface and need only a few times (5-10 turns) until it is a cohesive ball. Do not over knead.
- Divide the dough into two pieces and shape each into a ball. Place the balls on a baking sheet covered with foil or parchment. Brush a lightly beaten egg white over the top of each and sprinkle with more black pepper (optional). Cut an “X” into the top of each with a sharp knife, place in the oven, and bake for 45 minutes. Allow to cool before breaking the bread open.
Step By Step Photos
First preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Make the buttermilk substitute by stirring 1.75 tablespoons of lemon juice into 1.75 cups of milk. Let it sit until you’re ready to add it to the dough.
Next, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl (flours, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, rosemary, black pepper). Stir until well combined.
Begin to melt the butter in a small pot over medium heat. Continually swirl the butter as it melts.
Keep swirling and cooking the butter until it turns golden brown and then turn off the heat. This was hard to get a photo of because there was still some foam on top, but the solids that had sunk to the bottom had browned. Another way to tell is that the butter will take on a sweet, nutty aroma.
Pour the prepared milk mixture and the browned butter into the bowl of dry ingredients.
Stir just until there is no dry flour left on the bottom of the bowl. The dough will be quite wet and sticky.
Turn the wet dough out onto a well floured surface and knead as little as possible (less than ten turns) to form a cohesive ball of dough. Kneading too much will develop the gluten in the flour and leave you with a dense, chewy bread. Divide the dough into two pieces and shape each into a ball.
Brush the top of each ball of dough with a beaten egg white and then sprinkle with more black pepper (this is optional). Cut a large “X” into the top of each loaf.
Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until the outside is a deep golden brown. Allow the bread to cool and then break each loaf into four portions.
Enjoy with butter and jam! Even though my bread had black pepper and rosemary, I think it would still be excellent with sweet jam. The herbs were not at all over powering.