St. Patrick’s Day is often synonymous with fatty foods like corned beef and lots of green beer. As we saw in yesterday’s column, those may not be the best choices for your healthy diet. But there’s one classic Irish food that won’t sabotage your healthy habits. Irish soda bread is simple hearty fare, and only about 100 calories a slice.
The key ingredient is buttermilk, which tends to be lower in fat than regular milk. Buttermilk still provides calcium, protein, riboflavin, phosphorous, and selenium. Because it’s a fermented product, buttermilk is also a probiotic. Like yogurt, it contains live microorganisms that can help you develop bacteria which will improve immune function. Although it’s unlikely you’ll sit down and drink a glass of buttermilk–and more power to you if you will–it’s a great addition to many recipes for baked goods.
Here’s the Boise Healthy Living Examiner’s favorite Irish soda bread recipe to enjoy this St. Patrick’s Day. It calls for all-purpose flour, but you may substitute half whole wheat flour if you like.
4 C flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sugar (optional)
2 C buttermilk
Preheat oven to 450 and coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Scoop up the flour mixture with your hands and let it drop back into the bowl. This aerates the mixture. Don’t skip this step. In fact, it’s fun for the kids if you’ve got little ones who like to help in the kitchen. Next, add enough buttermilk to make a soft dough. You may not need all 2 cups.
Once the buttermilk is added, you’ll want to work quickly as the soda and buttermilk are already beginning to react. Knead the dough lightly. If you handle it too much, it will get tough. But if you don’t handle it enough, it won’t rise properly. Just a few kneads will do the trick.
Form a thick round loaf, or two smaller round loaves. Place the loaf or loaves on the prepared baking sheet. It’s traditional to cut the shape of a cross into the top. Use a knife rubbed with flour to keep the dough from sticking to the blade. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes. This may seem like a long time at such a high temperature. If you prefer, you may want to knock the oven temperature down to 425 and bake a little longer. You’ll know the bread is done when it sounds hollow if you knock your knuckles against the bottom and it sounds hollow. When the bread is done, wrap it in a towel to let it cool. This keeps the crust from hardening too much.
Irish soda bread has about 100 calories per slice and makes a great open-faced sandwich or a nice treat spread with jam. Though you can find other alternatives with lower calories, Irish soda bread doesn’t use eggs, butter, or oils, and because it’s so dense, you’ll probably only need one slice to feel satisfied.
Talk it up:
Have you ever made Irish soda bread?
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