As Head Pastry Chef at Ashford Castle, Paula Stakelum is responsible for creating the hotel’s delectable array of mouth-watering pastries and freshly baked goods. A highly accomplished chef, Paula emphasises that it’s a combination of ‘time, lots of mistakes and experiments, that leads to beautiful discoveries. Traditionally, people would keep their recipes and secretes close to them. I believe we should share, learn and grow as a food nation together. Now I have the perfect recipes, I’m going to share these recipes and discoveries with you.’ Here, Paula shares her recipe for how to make the perfect Irish soda bread, a delicious and versatile baking classic.
‘Traditionally Irish soda bread was made with four ingredients: flour, bread soda, sour milk and salt. I’ve added a few more ingredients to my recipe. I always say, “start with the best ingredients and you’ll end up with the best bread”. Try to use organic whole meal flour and a good creamy butter – this is key! I like when the crust is dark brown on the outside and the centre is almost as dark. You will achieve this when the honey in the recipe caramelises during cooking, resulting in a sweet yet nutty flavour.’
(Makes 1kg loaf)
460g wholemeal organic flour
60g salted butter
3 tsp bread soda (sodium bicarbonate)
1 ½ tsp cream of tartar
1 ½ tsp salt
1 medium whole egg
Preheat your oven to 170°C.
Ahead of time, make sure to leave your butter out overnight so that it’s at room temperature. Place the flour in a bowl and sieve in the bread soda, cream of tartar and salt. Add the butter and begin to mix with a wooden spoon or spatula. Slowly add the egg and buttermilk whilst mixing to make a smooth dough.
The dough will be very wet, this is normal. Prepare your baking tin by, brushing with melted butter and dusting with flour. Place all your bread dough into the tin, ensuring it is all level with your spoon.
Place in the oven for 1 hour at 170°C.
It’s good to know that depending on the time of year and weather, your recipe may change slightly. In the summer when the cows are eating fresh grass, the buttermilk is creamy, as is the butter. However in the winter, the cows may be eating hay and silage, so the milk and butter may change and you will notice your dough may need a little more buttermilk. Over time, you will know if you need to add more. I always develop recipes in summer, when our dairy in Ireland is at its best.
Enjoy your bread with creamy Irish butter, but don’t forget to share it!
Taste Paula’s fantastic baked goods for yourself when you enjoy Afternoon Tea in the elegant Connaught Room at Ashford Castle.