Soda bread focaccia merges the best of two breads in just 30 minutes

In a world deliciously overrun with baking mash-ups — cronuts, brookies and many others, soda bread focaccia might just be my new favorite one. And if you, like me, adore focaccia, and want to enjoy it more frequently but don’t always have the time and energy it takes for a yeasted bread, then it might just become your most beloved baked good hybrid, too.

Unlike traditional focaccia, this mashup is leavened not with yeast but with baking soda. It takes about 10 minutes to assemble, less than 15 minutes to bake, and when dimpled and brushed with olive oil, it will give you all the focaccia vibes in a fraction of the time.

Get the recipe: Soda Bread Focaccia

The idea was inspired by a recipe from a booklet my mother-in-law shared from her class at the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Ireland. At the time I was developing recipes for my upcoming easy savory baking book, and the recipe was the very definition of such a bake.

Soda bread dough is very lean and thus benefits immeasurably from bathing in oil. By being generous with a flavorful seasoned oil, you turn this soft-crumbed and crispy-topped bread into an utterly mouthwatering treat.

Below, I explain how — and why — soda bread focaccia’s wonderfully short ingredient list differs from, and is similar, to yeasted focaccia, as well as share a few techniques for making it perfectly every time.

Flour: Traditional soda bread calls for all-purpose flour and although you can make soda bread focaccia with just that, we like to add a little bread flour to the mix. Not only is high-protein bread flour often an ingredient in traditional focaccia, but it also adds structure, chew and height to this hybrid, which delivers a more focaccia-like texture and look.

Sugar: Don’t be alarmed by the inclusion of sugar: It seasons the dough and helps it brown, but doesn’t actually make the bread sweet. Sugar is a surprisingly important ingredient when savory baking, particularly when making muffins and tea loaves, as it adds moisture, contributes to browning and actually helps season the dough, as well.

Leavening: Traditionally, soda bread is leavened with just baking soda, hence its name. But adding a little baking powder helps lift and give a lightness to the crumb that is harder to achieve without the round shape of a boule.

Buttermilk: Soda bread traditionally calls for buttermilk, which imparts tenderness and tang and contributes to leavening the bread by activating the baking soda. In a pinch, you could substitute whole milk plus 1¾ teaspoons distilled white vinegar, for the buttermilk.

Seasoned oil: A traditional soda bread has no fat — no eggs, oil or butter — save for the small amount in the buttermilk. Thus the oil you choose to dimple, brush and drizzle over the dough should not only be used generously, but also be flavorful. My recipe calls for pantry-friendly dried thyme as well as garlic and onion powders, but if you prefer fresh herbs and minced fresh garlic, by all means use them.

Variations: In addition to playing with the flavors of your seasoned oil, and sprinkling the bread with flaky sea salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes before baking, consider sprinkling the bread with chopped olives, minced anchovies or caramelized onions. And post-bake, a dusting of parmesan will enhance the umami notes.

Get the recipe: Soda Bread Focaccia

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