Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Soda bread pizza and Chemistry lesson #1

For those of you who didn´t notice, this year is the International Year of Chemistry and a lot of activities about it are taking place along the year all over the world. Besides, Mainz is the City of Science (Stadt der Wissenschaft) this year in Germany. So I guess a little celebration or contribution is in order.

Along this year (let´s see if after 1 month I still remember this...) I will occasionally post something related either with chemistry in our daily lives or more specifically with chemistry in the kitchen. And believe me there is a lot to tell! Basically every meal you cook is a small experiment, where without knowing (or maybe you do) you are applying very basic chemical and physical concepts.

So to start Chemistry 101 we have a Soda Bread recipe.

I personally prefer 1000 times yeasted bread. There is a complexity of flavors that you cannot achieve other way than with the help of the little yeast cells (but that will be in another lesson).
But if you are a lazy busy person, then maybe you would like to have a fast solution for a tasty homemade bread.
The Soda Bread is fast done, with no need for proofing time. And why? Because instead of enslaving the yeast cells to produce carbon dioxide for you, you will use the reaction between the sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and the acid from the buttermilk.
Buttermilk is very rich in lactic acid (CH3CH(OH)COOH) when this comes in contact with the sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) they react forming a lot of carbon dioxide (CO2) which being a gas, is what makes your bread fluffy.
This is a textbook example of a acid-base reaction. So your overall reaction would be something like this:

   base      +               acid                →                salt                 + water + CO2

there is actually a really nice kitchen experiment that you can do to demonstrate this concept, just go ahead and mix a bit of baking powder with vinegar...

But moving on to the recipe, I made this little pizzas with a mixture of white and wholemeal flour. But you can also use any other flour variation you want, and even add some grains to it for a more healthy version.

Soda Bread mini-pizza

Ingredients for bread:

120 gr of white flour
120 gr of wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of baking powder
200 mL of buttermilk

Homemade tomato sauce
grilled red peppers
chopped mushrooms
feta cheese

Pre-heat the oven to 200 °C.
In a bowl mix the flours, salt and baking powder. Add the buttermilk and mix all ingredients well until the flour is fully hydrated. If you feel the dough is too humid and hard to shape, incorporate a bit more of flour until it has the right consistency.
Roll the dough to the shape you want (wither a big pizza, or 2 to 3 mini pizzas), spread the tomato sauce and place the other ingredients on top.
Bake for 25 minutes or until the edges are starting to get golden.


  1. You're forcing me to revisit CHEMISTRY? After all these years....?

  2. Hi, arriving here following a link on jb's blog and I am stunned by the quality and "yumminess" of your blog. The photos are gorgeous and make me want to try everything.

    I wish I'd been there with you and jb to share that fantastic cake!

  3. Jb, there will be a final exam. And next it´s Quantum Physics ah ah

    Hi Nathalie! Thank you! Well maybe next time we can do an extended meeting with bigger and better cake ;)

  4. Although I do have a recipe that uses a protein (lecithin) to line the outside of air bubbles and so prevent them from collapsing during baking

  5. You studied your lesson!

  6. It's called a pavlova and I could be persuaded to make one....

  7. Oh pavlova is really nice! Yes make one!

  8. Rute,
    que interessante, aprender a reaccao entre o bicarbonato de sodio e o buttermillk. agora descobri pq e que umas panquecas q fiz com os dois ingredientes, ficaram tao fofinhas e gordas! :)

  9. Sofia, também resulta muito bem nos bolos. Ainda ontem fiz um com buttermilk e limäo que é o bolo mais fofo que fiz até hoje!