Buenos Aires – Amongst the various food items that just don’t exist in Buenos Aires is buttermilk. I honestly don’t know how widespread its existence is outside of certain communities anyway, but here, it’s basically unheard of. Luckily, it’s easy to make a passable substitute for baking purposes, whether it be breads or making buttermilk marinated fried chicken. I would venture to guess, that even for buttermilk afficianados, it’s not particularly drinkable – essentially it’s just curdled milk. Depending on who you talk to, you have to let whole milk sit, after adding acid to it, for anywhere from 10 minutes to overnight. When I made the chicken, I let it sit for eight hours, for baking bread the other morning, I wasn’t about to sit and wait – so fifteen minutes or so, but I warmed it slightly and stirred it regularly, which seemed to accelerate the process.
I had a favorite recipe for “Irish Cream Soda Bread” that I used to make. The recipe has disappeared somewhere in my move here, and my memory of how to make it is fuzzy. I know it was a modification of a recipe in a cookbook I used to have, and a posting on eGullet yielded within an hour or two, someone who had the book and posted the recipe back for me. I decided to start off by making the recipe as is, and then see if I could figure out what I did to it to change it around. So much for margin notes. As is, the recipe calls for 1¼ cups of buttermilk (made by mixing that amount of whole milk with 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice), 4 cups of flour, ½ teaspoon of salt, and ½ teaspoon of baking soda. Mix them all together, and knead it for 10 minutes or more until smooth. I like to knead by hand, it’s good therapy…
Then put it in a heated, oiled, cast iron pan, cut an X in the top to allow it to expand easily, and throw it in a 400Â°F oven for 40 minutes (it took closer to 50 to be done, I’m still getting used to an electric, centigrade oven). As expected, it’s not quite the bread I usually make, so there is experimentation to be done in the future. First off, slightly hotter in the oven – I’m guessing the temperature must have been slightly low given how long it took to bake, and it didn’t puff up as much as it usually does. Second, buy a sifter – I don’t know where mine disappeared to, it does make a difference in the final texture. And third, I have this vague recollection that in order to make the bread a little richer I’d switched to using soured half and half rather than whole milk, which is probably why I took to calling it Cream Soda Bread. I don’t think half and half exists here either, but I can just mix a little cream into some milk to get the same effect.
As you can see, the bread has a very dense looking texture. It should be a little more airy – back to the heat thing, I’m guessing – experimentation will tell, and I’ll be sure to report on the results. Served it up for a nice brunch with sauteed chorizos (I’m being good, I’m using reduced fat ones, they’re not quite as yummy, but at least in theory, better for us), and an omelette filled with sauteed onion, zucchini (she was right, I did need more zucchini), basil and parsley. Nothing like throwing something together to accompany freshly baked bread!