It’s not just for St. Patrick’s Day. Unleavened soda bread is an easy and quick way to make bread in camp or at home. If making in camp, combine all of the dry ingredients (everything but the butter and buttermilk) and pack in a zip-top plastic bag in advance, then mix in the butter and buttermilk while getting the coals ready.
SERVES 6-8 People
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (or use up to 2 cups whole-wheat flour for denser, more nutritious bread)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons caraway seeds
½ teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons cold butter
1 ½ cups buttermilk
In a large bowl (or ziptop bag), combine all ingredients except for the butter and buttermilk. Stir well (or shake bag) to mix well.
When ready to make bread, cut in 2 tablespoons chilled butter with a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
Make a well in the center of the flour mix; add 1 ½ cups of buttermilk. Stir together until just moist (don’t overbeat or you’ll have a tough dough).
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface; knead gently 5 or 6 times (just until the dough comes together). Pat dough into a ball, and then flatten gently to make an 8-inch round.
Lightly butter a 10- or 12-inch cast-iron Dutch oven. Place dough in center of baking vessel and cut a shallow “X” into the top with a sharp knife.
For oven baking:
Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven for about 35-40 minutes, or until lightly browned on top. In the final 10 minutes of baking, brush the top of the loaf with about 1 teaspoon of melted butter. You know it’s done if you firmly tap the bottom of the loaf with a knuckle, and it makes a sharp “thwack” sound.
For cooking on hot coals:
Place 9-10 hot coals spaced evenly in a circle just inside of the diameter of the Dutch oven. Do not place any coals in the center of the circle. Set the Dutch oven over the coals, and set lid in place. Cover lid evenly with 10-14 hot coals. After 25-30 minutes, check the bread. It should be starting to get firm and have a bit of crackling on the surface, but not burnt. If it is still springy or moist to the touch, return lid and top coals and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. When bread is almost done, remove the bottom coals, brush the top of the bread with 1 teaspoon or so of melted butter. Return lid to Dutch oven and cover lid with 14-16 hot coals. After 10 minutes the top should be nicely browned.