Now I know this title might sound like the worst hippie food I’ve ever posted, but hear me out – because you could be having fresh, delicious bread on your dinner table tonight with about 10 minutes of work.
I’m no whole-grain obsessive. In fact, I love white flour. Whole-grain breads have a coarser texture and totally different flavors than those based on white flour. White flour is primarily a neutral-sweet background that allows other flavors from yeast and fermentation to shine through, while the various whole grains have their own distinct flavors. The key is to work with those flavors, not just substitute them blindly for white flour.
For example, let’s say I wanted to have a simple dinner of lentil soup, bread, and a chopped salad. If I was going to serve this with a crusty, yeast-raised white flour loaf, I might flavor the soup with smoked paprika and garnish it with a big drizzle of olive oil. That wouldn’t go with this sesame-flax soda bread at all. This bread is cakier in texture and really wants butter, not olive oil, and I’d probably flavor the soup primarily with onions and garlic.
Speaking of bread for dinner, the two obvious options are to buy a nice artisan loaf, or make your own yeast bread – which is awesome but not something we all make time for, or think about far enough in advance. A soda bread is a nice third way. Because the leavening comes from baking soda, you don’t have to develop the gluten or the yeast, so it all it needs is a quick mixing process and it goes right in the oven. It doesn’t exactly scratch the same itch as a yeast bread, but provides its own cakier kind of pleasure.
The flax meal I use is from Bob’s Red Mill. Once you open the package, I recommend sealing the leftovers tightly in a plastic bag and freezing, as the oils go rancid quickly at room temperature.
Sesame-Flax Soda Bread
Makes 1 large loaf
Vegetarian; not vegan or gluten-free
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup flax meal
- 1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 4 tablespoons butter, cool
- 1 egg, beaten
- 2 cups buttermilk
- Preheat oven to 425 F. Whisk together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, flax meal, sesame seeds, sugar, salt, and baking soda.
- Cut the butter into the flour with two knives or a pastry cutter, as when making a pie crust. (Tip: if your butter is frozen, microwave it for ten seconds at a time until it is cuttable).
- Add the egg and buttermilk. Mix well with a spoon, then knead right in the bowl for couple of minutes. It should be moist but firm enough to form a ball. If not, add a bit more flour.
- Shape into a large ball, place on a greased (or silpat-covered) cookie sheet, and make an X in the top with a sharp knife.
- Bake for about 40 minutes until golden brown, and sounds hollow when rapped on the bottom. Better yet, use an instant read thermometer to look for an internal temperature of 180 degrees F / 83 C. That is a much more reliable way to gauge doneness. Check the bread about 20 minutes into cooking, and if it is browning too fast, cover it with a tinfoil tent until it is done.
- Allow to cool for a few minutes, and serve with swaths of sweet cream butter.