The Oven has baked its last loaf. This blog is no longer being updated.

My cooking videos appear at

I write on food at

Soda pops

Friday, July 22, 2011

I buy baking soda by the half-kilo bagfuls. Sure I use it in cooking but the huge amount that I have in store is mostly for cleaning my home. That and vinegar, often together, are my favourite cleaning agents... even if cleaning isn't always my favourite thing to do.

But back to cooking. Bicarbonate of soda, a name some of us may be more familiar with, enhances the colour of vegetables, keeps them crisp, and rids dried beans of their gassiness. But baking is where I like using sodium bicarbonate or to get technical, NaHCO3 (okay, now I'm just showing off; don't know why since my Chemistry grades in high school were abysmal). It make cookies, biscuits and muffins tender and high, and gives that reddish-brown colour to devil's food cake.

Lately, I've been making hand pies for a project using a buttermilk dough, which contains bicarb of soda. Here's the basic recipe: 

250g bread flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoon butter or shortening
175ml buttermilk (see note below)
  • Sift flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl. Rub in the butter or shortening. Stir in the buttermilk, bringing the ingredients together with a fork to form a soft rough dough. Cover the bowl and set aside to rest for 10 minutes. 
  • On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough gently for 10 seconds and form a smooth ball. Set aside for 30 minutes before using. 
Note: Use buttermilk from the packet or make your own by mixing together 2 teaspoons vinegar (apple cider or white) and enough milk to make 175ml; set aside for about 10 minutes for the mixture to curdle before using.
Braided hand pies: Like a papoose swaddled in its blanket
The dough is sufficient for four large hand pies (these are actually as big as my open hand). They are formed, brushed with beaten egg and baked for about 30 minutes.

The basic dough takes well to modifications as well. Since making Dan Lepard's Sour Cream Sandwich Bread and using it for a grilled cheese and chutney sandwich, I find myself putting sour cream in everything. Sure, I know sour cream isn't the healthiest thing to consume all the time with its high fat content (full-fat, of course, for the taste) but it is natural animal fat and not trans fat. It's not as if it's as unhealthy as mayonnaise, I tell myself as I scoop another dollop of sour cream onto my baked potato.

All things in moderation is advice that goes unheeded when something is this delicious.

I use the basic recipe above but substitute 50g of sour cream for 50ml of buttermilk. Stir the two together before adding to the dry ingredients. Both the flat bread at the top of the post and the quick soda bread below are made with sour cream dough. The flat bread is rolled out and cooked in a griddle on the stove. It tastes like naan and has the same puffiness. It also stays soft even from the fridge.

Quick soda bread
For the soda bread, I also substituted half the white bread flour with wholewheat flour, hence the lovely brownish orange colour (although that could just be because I took the picture in the natural light of dusk). Thirty minutes before baking, place a lidded pot in a 220°C oven. The dough, once mixed, does not need to be kneaded until smooth or rested; form it into a rough ball with floured hands. Carefully take the hot pot out of the oven and sprinkle the bottom of the inside generously with flour. Place the ball of dough in the pot and cut a cross on top; sprinkle with flour, replace the lid and return the pot to the oven. Bake the loaf for about 25 minutes or until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Best eaten warm.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your views are welcome and appreciated. Have a nice day!