Whole-Wheat Soda Bread with Pistachios and Apricots
With the winter holidays upon us it is easy to be thinking of over-the-top baked creations but consider those moments when you need something simple and nourishing. This Whole-Wheat Soda Bread with Pistachios and Apricots from Abigail Johnson Dodge and The Everyday Bakeris perfect for weekend brunches with visiting family, vacation baking with the kids or just for yourself with a nice poached egg to get you going in the morning during this busy time. I have been a long time Abby fan; her approach is solid in technique, her writing is simple, clear and encouraging and her talent is obvious as she brings us from yeasted breads and flatbreads to fruit desserts, cookies, pies and tarts. There is even a chapter focusing on desserts that are Quick To Make as well as one on puddings and custards – all in this huge book that is loaded with finished images as well as in-progress and technique pictures. In this recipe, note her use of the term “shaggy”. It is a wonderful term to describe a certain texture that we encounter as bakers – and an underused descriptor in my opinion! When you make this bread and get to that step, you will see exactly what Abby means. Don’t miss the other recipe she has brought us: a Salted Caramel-Toffee Icebox Cake. This cake features the “it” flavor (salted caramel) of the season wrapped up in a super-easy cake that is sure to wow.
Excerpted with permission. The Everyday Bakerby Abigail Johnson Dodge. Published by Taunton Press, 2015.
When I ran the bakery at Hay Day Country Farm Market in Connecticut, I was blessed with a stellar staff of hard-working folks. Chief among them was my head bread baker, Annie. Originally from England, Annie came to the States as a professional nanny and, thankfully, she found her way into my bakery. In charge of the majority of our daily bread production, Annie’s day started in the predawn hours as she made and shaped hundreds of loaves as the ovens cranked up. Along with our daily bread selections, Thursday was also Irish Soda Bread Day and it came as no surprise that with Annie’s British roots, she championed this bread. Helping her with these batches was my pleasure. As she mixed the dough and we shaped the loaves, she shared her memories of making the bread in her childhood home. I learned much from Annie and not only about bread making. Even in the most stressful moments in a hot and busy bakery, she personified grace and patience.
As Annie would have told it, soda bread has been an Irish staple since the early 19th century. Traditionally made with only flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk, modern American versions usually include sugar and currants, raisins, or caraway seeds. I’ve taken this bread into the 21st century by using some whole-wheat flour along with dried apricots and pistachios. For those of you craving a more traditional bread, I have given that variation on the facing page.
- 2 cups (9 oz./255 g) unbleached all-purpose flour + more for dusting
- 11⁄2 cups (63⁄4 oz./191 g) whole-wheat flour
- 1⁄4 cup (13⁄4 oz./50 g) granulated sugar
- 3⁄4 tsp. baking soda
- 3⁄4 tsp. table salt
- 3⁄4 cup (5 oz./142 g) coarsely chopped dried apricots
- 1⁄2 cup (21⁄2 oz./71 g) unsalted pistachios
- 13⁄4 cups (420 ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F (230°C/gas 8). Line a large cookie sheet with parchment or a non-stick liner.
- Whisk the flours, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl until well blended. Add the apricots and pistachios. Pour all but 2 Tbs. of the buttermilk over the dry ingredients. Using a silicone spatula, gently fold and stir until it forms a shaggy, clumpy dough. Push the larger, moist clumps of dough to one side and the remaining dry bits of flour to the opposite side. Drizzle a little (about 1 Tbs.) of the remaining buttermilk over the dry bits and stir until just moistened. Add a bit more if needed. Using the spatula in one hand, gather the dough together and gently knead until it holds together. (I like to use one hand to help mix while keeping the other working the spatula.) The dough will be soft and sticky.
- Generously dust the work surface with flour. Scrape the dough onto the flour and, using lightly floured hands, shape into a 6-inch (15 cm) disk about 2 inches (5 cm) thick. Turn the disk over so the floury side is on top and move the dough to the prepared sheet. Using a serrated knife, score the top with an X about 1⁄4 inch (6 mm) deep from one side to the other. Dust the knife with a little flour if it sticks to the dough.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F (200°C/gas 6) and bake until the bread is well browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, 46 to 50 minutes.
- Move the sheet to a rack and let cool until warm (1 to 2 hours) or let cool completely. The bread is best when served slightly warm or at room temperature. For a softer crust, loosely wrap the just-baked bread with a clean dishtowel and let it cool on the rack. This bread is also delicious toasted.
Notes from Abby:
Traditional: Use 31⁄2 cups (16 oz./
454 g) unbleached all-purpose flour instead of the all-purpose and whole-wheat. Substitute 3⁄4 cup (5 oz./
142 g) raisins or 3⁄4 cup (33⁄4 oz./
106 g) lightly packed currants for the apricots and pistachios. Add 1 tsp. caraway seeds to the flour mixture.
Scrape the dough onto a floured work surface and gently pat and shape it into a rustic 6-inch (15 cm) disk; use a ruler to measure for accuracy.
Turn the disk over so the floured side is facing up and place the disk on the prepared cookie sheet. Using a serrated knife, score the top of the disk in two directions, forming an X. The cut should only be about 1⁄4 inch (6 mm) deep.