by Kara Kimbrough
As freezers slowly defrosted and grocery store shelves were bare after Hurricane Katrina 15 years ago, millions of Southerners vowed never to depend on modern technology to feed themselves and their families. Gardening, canning, baking, and other long-forgotten skills suddenly became popular again, only to have interest wane as life got back to normal. But guess what? The current COVID-19 pandemic has made all of us realize–once again–that depending on others for food is probably not the best way to live. As a result, recipes abound online for homemade bread and other baked goods that are now hard to find in supermarkets–if you even dare to venture out nowadays as the pandemic rages. I’ve seen numerous recipes for bread that included yeast, the use of which will create light, springy bread. But what to do if you are limiting grocery store runs or have sworn to make do with what you have on hand? I found a recipe for Irish Soda Bread created with basic pantry essentials–and no, yeast is not readily available in my pantry, as I expect it’s not in many people’s. The recipe results in a dense crust bread that won’t resemble regular homemade bread, especially not anything store-bought. But, it’s filling, healthy, and when coated with butter and toasted or even better, covered with a layer of homemade muscadine jelly from my summer stock (yes, canning is making a comeback, too), makes a delicious and hearty meal accompaniment or breakfast.
2020 Pandemic Soda Bread 4 cups all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon sugar, double this amount if desired for more flavor 1/2 tablespoon baking powder 1/2 tablespoon baking soda 1-1/2 cups water, at room temperature 2 teaspoons vinegar (cider or white) Milk, optional 1 tablespoon butter, melted (or butter substitute) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Combine water and vinegar in a two-cup measuring cup. While continuing to stir, add the water mixture to the flour mixture. Stir the mixture until a dough forms. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead the dough for 2-3 minutes to make sure all the ingredients are incorporated. Shape dough into a flat, round disk no more than 1-1/2 inches high. Place the dough on a baking sheet or pizza pan. Dip a sharp knife into flour then cut an “X” on top of the loaf. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown and crust is firm. If a softer crust is desired, brush the top lightly with milk halfway through the baking time. When the bread is done, remove from the oven and while still hot, brush top with melted butter to add flavor and soften crust. NOTE: Make sure to form the loaf into a flat shape as directed. If it is built too high, bread will not bake thoroughly. Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer. Email her at email@example.com.