Thursday, February 5, 2009

The michael5000 Kitchen #1: Soda Bread

...and so a new fiasco begins!

It would be an understatement to say that I am not a foodie. My interest in food preparation peaked, as so much does, in the early twenties -- not coincidentally, the time when I had the least money to buy anything fancier than bulk oats, beans, and noodles. Even then, my dabbling in the culinary arts was never what you would call Sophisticated; I made many a hockey puck before I figured out that brewer's yeast was the weak link in my bread recipes.

Once out of graduate school, I let other people -- restuarants and sprawling multinational agribusiness corporations -- take over most of the cooking. My cooking repertoire has long been designed to minimize time of preparation and use as few dishes as possible, and so I have subsisted on a diet of various bean & cheese combinations, eggs, and pasta, supplemented in recent years by whatever Mrs.5000 comes up with when it's her turn.

The Recipe Box

Hardly used over the last 15 years, I have dragged a recipe box with me from home to home. Except for a few signature items, like my famous oatmeal almond chocolate chip cookies, most of the recipe cards in there have been doing nothing but gradually yellowing. It's a silly state of affairs.

Therefore, it's time for a new L&TM5K Project! Over the next however many months or years, I shall gradually try out all of the recipes in my box. Those that are worth making, I'll keep; those that aren't, I'll pitch. I'll share the recipes, and the results, with you here.

Recipe #1: "Brown Soda Bread"

Provenence: Clipped from the Christian Science Monitor, sometime in the early 90s. There was a period of several months when I was making this bread a lot, if memory serves.

The Recipe

3 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1 tablespoon salt [see update]
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 to 2 cups buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350. Combine dry ingrediants in a large bowl, and mix thoroughly. Add enough buttermilk to make a sort dough, firm enough to hold its shape. Knead on a lightly floured surface for about three minutes. Form into a round loaf and place on a buttered cookie sheet. Cut a cross on the top with a sharp knife. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes [see update], or until the loaf is nicely browned and sounds hollow when rapped with a wooden spoon.

The Results: Easy and fun to make. Tasty, but 45 minutes might be too little time in the oven, as the center of my loaf was still doughy. The "1 1/2 - 2 cups" range for the buttermilk seems imprecise; next time around I'll keep it on the 1 1/2 cup end of the range to try to see if that improves the texture. On the salty side.

UPDATE: Per Vida's comment, I have made subsequent loafs (loaves?) with a teaspoon of salt rather than a tablespoon, and find it is a little tastier that way. I have also been leaving it in for the full 50 minutes, too, and that seems to have solved the undercooked middle issue.

And, per Rebel, here's a picture:


Rebel said...

I heartily endorse this endeavor, and think it should take presidence over all other L&TM5K projects, including but not limited to "really boring old movies with good cinemitography" and "really long Russian books that only a first caliber dork would appreciate"!

But you know, that's just one girl's opinion. ;)

re: the sodabread - add in a nice bit of lard and you've got yourself a buttermilk biscuit recipe. Where's the picture of your finished product?????

Michael5000 said...

@Reb: "Endorse" as in "publically state the merits of," or "endorse" as in "provide financial backing for"? If the latter, call me.

re: the sodabread - add lard, and you've made it inedible to michael5000. So that won't do.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I guess I have special insight into this--though I had no idea it was a new Project until I read it on the blog--so I'll jump into the thicket of comments...

This bread was really good--even the sour doughy part in the middle, I'll confess. Though I purchased ingredients as instructed, my first confirmation that he was making bread came when I heard him punching something out in the kitchen. The success of the endeavor even caused me to clasp my hands and mock-swoon in the traditional "my hero" gesture. Or, if that's not literally true, I should have. He's promised to make a second loaf this weekend, because we have leftover buttermike!

gl. said...

ooo! i'm really going to enjoy this project! too bad there aren't taste tests or judging panels involved; i love soda bread. :)

when i read your center was slightly doughy i thought: have you checked your oven temperature? i had a terrible problem with recipe timing here for years because our oven temperature was 200 degrees off when the preheat sensor would beep to indicate our oven was "ready"! (and then 10 degrees off even when it finally reached its final temperature 15 minutes later.) it made me think i was a lousy baker, but once i used an oven thermometer and adjusted my recipes, things baked much more expectedly.

mhwitt said...

I think I remember you making some of this soda bread when I visited you in Lawrence, Kansas. I recall declaring it yummy!

Anonymous said...

Michael -

Yay! I'm excited your using your blog to motivate cooking. I actually just make soda bread yesterday. Some suggestions for your bread recipe - you can get by with 1 teaspoon of salt, if you don't have buttermilk on hand, you can get the same effect by using regular milk and adding vinegar, and instead of regular sugar try brown sugar (more moist and tasty). Many soda bread recipes call for butter (probably traditionally lard). Adding the fat will give it a more moist texture, and it will keep longer.

I'm excited to read about the next cooking adventure,

Anonymous said...

I have been reading in the google reader at work and wrote this one down. It has made me crave bread for about a week now. Thank you very much.