Irish Soda Bread with Caramelised Red Onion
Simple and fast but oh so tasty. Waft your kitchen with the smell of fresh homemade bread and sweet onions and watch everyone run through the door. As Ireland’s most famous bread I wanted to keep the flavour pretty authentic but the addition of onions is a really nice twist on the original, especially topped with some proper salted butter and mature cheddar.
I particularly love how this can be on the table in under an hour, while most bread take at least half of your day off and often still don’t rise enough because your yeast is out of date or your airing cupboard is a tad too warm. The acidity of the buttermilk reacts with the basic bicarbonate of soda to create the rise, as the acid is neutralised by the base to produce salt and water – love a good bit of baking chemistry! However, the downside of this fast reaction is that you the baker also need to act quickly to get the dough in the oven as fast as possible after fully combining the ingredients. Pretty exciting really!
1 large red onion, finely sliced
1 tsp soft brown sugar
500g strong bread flour, white, brown or a combination
100g porridge oats
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
25g butter, cubed
Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6/fan 180C.
In a heavy frying pan, fry the finely sliced onion in a little vegetable oil on a high heat. After about 5 minutes when the onion begins to brown, add the tsp of brown sugar to aid the caramelisation. Allow the sugar to bind, darken and bubble up but not burn, this only take a minute or two. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
In a big mixing bowl combine all the dry ingredients well, making sure to remove an big lumps. Rub the butter between your fingers into the flour to create a breadcrumb consistency. In a separate bowl add the cooled onions to the buttermilk then add to the dry ingredients. If using brown or wholemeal flour I sometimes find a tablespoon or two of water might be needed to gain the right consistency. Combine quickly and very gently, forming it into a flat rounded loaf around 20cm diameter. The clock is ticking now as bubbles are formed as soon as the buttermilk combines with the baking soda.
Cover a baking sheet in flour then place the sticky loaf on top. Traditionally a cross is scored on top (to let the fairies out of course!) and bake in the preheated oven for about 35 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack and enjoy with lots of butter…and a Guinness? 😛