Soda bread farls are flat breads that are made from the same dough as Irish soda bread, but are cooked in a skillet or on a griddle. They’re triangular and made by shaping the bread dough into a disc and cutting it into quarters before cooking, then cooking each piece individually. The idea is that it is easier to whip up a bread at a moment’s notice if you don’t need to use the oven.
These breads, cooked in this style, are also known as skillet scones, since they tend to look (and taste) like scones. Like scones, they should be served with butter, jam, cream or any other topping you can think of. The name might not ring a bell to some, but it’s actually a pretty common food to encounter if you ever spend some time camping and swapping campfire recipes with other travelers. Just about all camp cooking is done in a skillet, so skillet scone recipes can be quite popular.
The dough is very easy to make, with just a few ingredients: flour, buttermilk, salt and sugar. The sugar can even be omitted if you want a very plain bread, even though there is only a small amount included. While it’s traditional to cut up the scones and the farl dough before cooking, I find that it is much easier to cook the dough whole and cut it up once it is done. This makes it much more tender and moist inside, while the smaller pieces can sometimes dry out as they cook. It is also a little easier to tell when the big bread is done, as you can easily press the sides to see if the bread springs back into place before taking it from the heat. It takes about 8-10 minutes on a side, and the only thing you need to look out for is over-browning should your pan get too hot. Medium-high heat generally works the best.
The finished bread has a good buttermilk flavor and there is just the right amount of salt and sugar to make it interesting. It is a little on the dense side, like all soda breads, but has a nice tight crumb and a relatively tender crumb. The top and bottom crusts turn out to be crisp when the bread is fresh and make a nice contrast to the moister, softer interior. I think the bread is best on the first day, but if you store it in an airtight container, it’s still good the second. Usually if I have leftovers, I end up slicing the bread in half crosswise and toasting it before eating.
Skillet Scones (Soda Bread Farls)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup buttermilk
extra flour, for kneading
Preheat a dry skillet or griddle over medium-high heat while you make the dough.
Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, and whisk to blend. Stir in buttermilk, forming a sticky dough.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface and gently knead until dough is no longer sticky and fairly smooth (about 1 minute). Shape dough into a ball and press it out into a disc about 1/2-inch thick.
Transfer dough to skillet and cook for about 8-10 minutes, until bottom is golden brown. Turn dough over, and cook for another 8-10 minutes until bottom is golden brown and bread is set. Check for doneness by gently pressing the sides of the dough to see if the bread springs back into place. If not, reduce heat slightly (to prevent over-browning) and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Cut bread into quarters to serve (traditional for farls; or 6-8 scones for a larger crowd)
Bread is best when it is fresh.