Offbeat Bites: Easy Cheesy Soda Bread

Chef’s note: This recipe produces a thick and dense bread that becomes almost cake-like if you make sweet additions to the base recipe, like raisins, other dried fruits, or candied peel. This version is savory, with herbs and cheeses of your choice, but feel free to experiment. This recipe can be easily doubled, to make a larger loaf. Don’t forget to check out the links at the bottom to see related recipes and read up on the history of this bread!

With few ingredients in the base recipe, this bread is simple and plain, unless you choose to add more.

Ingredients:

vegetable oil, for brushing

1 tablespoon of white vinegar

1 cup of milk

2 cups of all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

½ teaspoon of salt

1½ teaspoon of baking powder

1 teaspoon of dill, rosemary, or other herb (optional)

¼ cup of shredded mozzarella, swiss, or other cheese (optional)

1 tablespoon of grated parmesan or other sharp cheese (optional)

 

Preheat the oven to 425F. Pump that sucker up.

Brush a baking sheet with the vegetable oil, otherwise the bread will get stuck to the sheet. Flour a (hopefully) clean counter lightly. Stir the vinegar into the milk, and let it sit for about five minutes.

Be sure to add the right amount of baking powder – it’s incredibly important, considering it’s the only leavening agent in this recipe.

Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and any herbs in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the bowl.

The amount of liquid seems to vary each time I make this recipe, so be cautious when pouring.

Pour about ¾ of the milk/vinegar mixture into the dry ingredients.

The dough is super sticky, so flour your hands if you’re going to mix by hand. I prefer to do as much mixing as possible using a wooden spoon.

Mix the dry and wet ingredients well with a wooden spoon, to form a dough. Add extra milk/vinegar or mix by hand if needed. The dough should be soft, sticky, and not too wet. Flour your hands.

Overworking the dough produces overly chewy bread.

Toss the dough out onto the floured counter and knead lightly and briefly. Be gentle with the dough – kneading it too much would add unnecessary elasticity.

According to superstition, the cross shape cut into the bread also wards off evil spirits.

Form the dough into a thick, compact disk. Cut an x-shape – which also helps the dough rise – into the top of the round. Be sure to use a sharp knife. Place on the oiled baking sheet. If using cheese, sprinkle over top of the round evenly.

Cheese browns quickly, so checking the bottom is more accurate.

Bake the round for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown on top and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. This bread is best served warm, but will keep for about 3 days.

Click here for the history of soda bread!
Here is a sweet soda bread recipe.
Here is another variant of the base recipe, using traditional buttermilk and baking soda.
All photos by Lauren Quinn
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