As part of our Irish Food Recipes series we visited Tracey at Tracey’s Farmhouse Kitchen and had a fantastic time learning how to make three delicious Irish breads and pastries. Read on for some top tips about making these great baked goods at home and learn a bit about the history of the methods used to make them.
A Bit About Tracey’s Farmhouse Kitchen
Tracey’s Farmhouse Kitchen is located on the shores of Strangford Lough looking out on to Ballymorran Bay. They host lots of great activities from water sports to traditional griddle baking as well as offering great hospitality. If you visit you can enjoy a great afternoon tea with home baked irish classics such as treacle soda bread and scones. You can even stay a while in their B&B, Horseshoe Cottage.
Tracey specialises in traditional Irish baking and is always making amazing baked goods and teaching others the techniques passed down through the generations. In just one short class there you can learn to make three amazing Irish breads all cooked on the griddle in the traditional way. It is a wonderful spot for a day out or a weekend away.
How To Make Northern Irish Soda Bread at Tracey’s Farmhouse Kitchen
Soda bread is very popular throughout Northern Ireland and is a staple which is used in many ways. From the savoury Ulster fry to the jam covered afternoon tea, soda bread is a beautiful fluffy bread that is cooked on a griddle.
A full recipe with measurements is provided but Tracey bakes the traditional method by hand, feeling the mixture to tell if its right, and measuring nothing. Soda bread is made up of soda bread flour (or plain flour and baking soda), and buttermilk. A simple two ingredient bread with a world of flavour.
The soda bread flour used by Tracey is made from grains which are grown near the cottage and is milled in Belfast, a true Northern Irish flour which has all the ingredients you need to make the perfect soda bread.
The bread is made by placing a few handfuls of soda bread flour into a bowl then slowly adding buttermilk and combining gently. It is important not to overwork your soda bread, unlike yeasted doughs it does not need to be kneaded or knocked back. The less you work the soda bread dough, the more it will rise.
You will know the soda bread dough is ready when you see it is a slightly wet and sticky dough. Then just place it on a well-floured surface and roll the dough in the flour to ensure it doesn’t stick. With your hand press down on the soda bread dough until it is around one centimetre in thickness and a circular shape.
When soda bread is formed into a circle, it is called a cake of soda bread. Soda bread is served in quarters, called farls (an Ulster Scots term). To create the farls simply place some flour on a knife and cut down the middle of the cake, then again horizontally to create four equal quarters.
These are then cooked on a griddle for 3 to 4 minutes each side (ensure you shake off excess flour first). Once the main sides of the soda bread are cooked you must harm them. Harning (another Ulster Scots term) your soda bread means to cook it on the sides to fully set the bread and ensure the middle is cooked. Place your breads on their sides for 15 seconds each and they will be fully cooked.
Treacle Soda Bread at Tracey’s Farmhouse Kitchen
Treacle soda bread is a sweeter version of the traditional version given depth of flavour by adding treacle to the mixture. Treacle (or molasses) is a form of burnt sugar giving a deep and sweet note to the savoury soda bread.
To add treacle into your soda bread mixture, simply add the treacle to some of the buttermilk before mixing your dry and wet ingredients. Ensuring your treacle is at room temperature will help it mix with the buttermilk. Using this method ensures the treacle can be mixed in without being too gloopy.
How To Make Irish Scones at Tracey’s Farmhouse Kitchen
Scones are the ideal treat for an afternoon tea and can be made different with many different additives such as cinnamon, cherries, or dried fruit. In her video Tracey shows the way she makes her traditional scones with her hand measured method.
Tracey also recommends using room temperature butter rather than cold butter as it is easier to work into the dough. Ensure when mixing together your flour, baking powder, buttermilk, and butter that you don’t overwork your dough as they will not rise.
Tracey uses buttermilk for her scones as it improves the depth of flavour but regular milk is fine to use as the baking powder does not need an acid to activate, unlike baking soda (used in soda bread).
Once you form your scones using a cutter, place them in a baking tray which is lined with a thin layer of butter and flour. In the tray you can brush the tops of your scones with milk, or buttermilk. Tracey even recommends sprinkling some demerara sugar over the top to give it a nice sweetness and add to the visual appeal.
Tracey’s Farmhouse Kitchen is a great small business bringing traditional baking and other fun activities to visitors of Strangford Lough. During our visit we learned so much about the terminology, techniques, and top tips which go into making the delicious baked treats made and sold there.
Why not head there for a baking lesson of your own or try out some of Tracey’s amazing recipes at home for yourself?. Check out the videos for even more instructions and information as well as the full recipe sheet you can screenshot and save. We at Amazing Food & Drink are all about bringing you the best Northern Irish and Irish food possible and Tracey’s Farmhouse Kitchen are certainly bringing that and more.
Want to learn more about Northern Irish sweet treats? Check out our article on The Daily Apron in Lisburn.