Soda Bread

My fridge is full of takeaway leftovers and the veg draw has been untouched this week – a sorry state of affairs indeed for someone who calls herself a cooking enthusiast. I have, in my defence, had a manic weekend (I know I’m always saying this but my life is just a whole lotta busy at the moment!) that consisted of twelve hours of dance rehearsals over two days, plus a night out in the middle of those days. My university’s performing arts society are putting on West Side Story this semester – its going to be amazing, but to ensure that we have to put in a lot of rehearsal time, obviously. So this weekend particularly the show has kind of taken over my life (my iPod has even been choosing WSS tracks to play first in its shuffle queue – spooky), leaving little time for recreation in the way of baking and cooking.

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An antidote to all this, however, comes in the form of my recipe for soda bread, made a few days back before the dance-rehearsal-Pop Tarts-social-muscle-murdering-marathon that this weekend brought. A resolutely wholesome and thoroughly rustic loaf, my homemade soda bread is a sort of mish-mash of various versions of the  traditional Irish bread that I settled on after a couple of attempts (the first was so salty you could have shriveled a slug with it).

It is SO simple, easy and quick to bake – no proving necessary!! – and can be knocked up in under an hour. Great with soups and stews; my favourite way to eat it so far is toasted and spread with butter. Unless you are toasting it, the bread is absolutely best eaten the day, even the hour that its made. Soda bread doesn’t keep too well, but this loaf is pretty small – with a bowl of soup one person could easily have a quarter of it for a meal.

Ingredients

  • 150g wholemeal bread flour
  • 100g white bread flour
  • 10g bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 35g butter
  • 180-200ml buttermilk

Step 1. Sift both types of flour and the bicarb and salt into your mixing bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingers until there are no big lumps of butter left.

Step 2. Be prepared to do this QUICK. The reaction between the bicarb and the buttermilk is what creates the rise in the loaf, so if you muck around with this stage for too long you’ll have a denser, smaller loaf. Pour in the buttermilk and use a round bladed knife to mix the ingredients well, then use your hands to roughly bring the dough together. It should be quite wet and sticky to touch – a dryer dough will make a denser loaf, as will a dough that has been handled too much; keep it short and sweet with the mixing and shaping.

Before baking. Not the most attractive loaf in the world, but what it lacks in finesse it makes up for in flavour.

Before baking. Not the most attractive loaf in the world, but what it lacks in finesse it makes up for in flavour.

Step 3. Cut a cross into the top of the ball of dough and pop it on a baking tray, either non-stick or lined with baking paper. Bake at 200C/Gas Mark 6 for 30-35 minutes. The loaf should sound hollow when you tap it on the base and the top nicely browned. Leave to cool under a clean tea towel so the crust doesn’t harden up too much, then store in an airtight bag when cool, or devour when still warm, depending on your resolve!

**Notes**

As I mentioned earlier, the first loaf I made was far too salty for my taste. I know soda bread is a salty bread, but I cut down the amount considerably because I couldn’t eat more than a morsel or two without dehydrating! If you can’t get buttermilk (I found it in a wholefoods shop near me – its Beanies if you’re a fellow Sheffielder) then milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice will do fine, or if you need to use up sour milk that also works. Other recipes added oats, honey or treacle to the bread; its such a simple bake that experimenting with ingredients should be easy 🙂

Wheaty grainy goodness, still warm and crumbly from the oven. Yumma yumma yumma.

Wheaty grainy goodness, still warm and crumbly from the oven. Yumma yumma yumma.

Embrace the wholesomeness, that’s the best bit! And you can assuage any takeaway-related guilt by making and eating this bread, just like me in this post. I might not be back here til Tuesday as I’ll be away from home tomorrow, so you’ve got plenty of time to make soda bread and report back before then!

       

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