Soda bread

I have a regular routine of making my own sourdough bread and a loaf usually lasts me a week, but occasionally, like today, I run out and find I don’t have any bread for breakfast. So instead of running to the Co-op, I make soda bread instead.

Soda bread can be made really quickly, no kneading or proving is required and I usually have all the ingredients in stock. It’s made with buttermilk which I often have in the fridge for making blue cheese dressing but a home made version of mixing lemon juice with warm milk will do instead.

I once spent a week on my own in a cabin by a fjord in Arctic Norway, getting away from it all on a kind of digital detox. I soon ran out of bread and other supplies and the town was hard to get to without a car so I made my own loaf each day using this soda bread recipe. It felt really good to include bread making as part of my daily cabin routine, along with wielding an axe to chop logs fetched from the undercroft (very Girl with Dragon Tattoo).

Like my sourdough, this bread doesn’t keep well which I think is a good sign – it’s not packed with preservatives, but it makes good toast and croutons.

This is a Lorraine Pascale recipe. I love her bread recipes – check out the rosemary and sea salt focaccia.

Ingredients

  • 370g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 130g wholemeal flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 40g butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp black treacle
  • 300–340ml buttermilk (or alternatively use warm milk plus 1 tbsp lemon juice)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 and ensure the top shelf in the oven is in position.
  2. Place the flours, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl and stir together. Make a large hole in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the melted butter and treacle, plus enough of the buttermilk to make a loose sticky dough.
  3. Tip the dough onto a lightly dusted work surface. The dough will be quite sticky. Knead the dough for one minute, then shape it into a large ball with a taut, smooth top. Place the dough on a baking tray and flatten it a bit – I find the easiest way to do this is with a rolling pin.
    Take a wooden spoon, put some flour over the whole handle, then hold it horizontally over the bread. Put the wooden spoon handle on top of the bread then push it down until you feel the baking tray at the bottom. This mark is the first half of the trademark soda bread cross. Repeat with a line at right angles to this.
  4. Dust with some flour then bake in the oven for 30–40 minutes, or until the bread is brown, has risen nicely and the dough inside where the cross was made is not damp.
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The loaf just before it goes in the oven

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