There is an unspoken rule in our household. The Captain does the bread and I do the pastries and cakes.
I know how incredible the home made stuff is and even though I adore the aroma of fresh bread (who doesn’t?), I just don’t seem to get down with the yeast. I guess it doesn’t help that every time I wanted to, my stale yeast has long been dead and buried. I could get the man to teach me more but every time he starts going off about the science-y part and bread formulas, I get all glassy eyed and start thinking of puppies.
But soda breads are more up my alley. Now I’m definitely not the right person to explain the uber technical stuff since I’m more like the weird history girl-from-medieval-camp than scientist. But in a nutshell; rather than relying on yeast for oomph to make a bread rise, soda breads uses the gas from the fizzy combo of bicarb soda and acid to give it lift off.
The good thing about this is there is no need for the long wait while you wait for the dough to rise. The pay off though is that you have to work quickly with a light hand to get the bread into the oven asap and it’d never be as light, airy and fluffy than their yeast counterparts. But it does have its place. I love the denseness and it makes a killer accompaniment to a thick creamy hearty soup or a chunky Irish stew. It’s also awesome as a meal on its own rather than a sidekick. Think toasted with a topping of mustard, cold cuts and cheese or simply adorned with good butter and the tiniest flakes of smoked sea salt. Or for a sweeter touch, a gentle cascade of honey does the trick.
- 250g plain flour
- 250g wholemeal flour
- 150g rolled oats
- 15g bicarbonate soda
- 10g salt
- 500ml buttermilk*
- 2 Tbl (30ml) black treacle
- 2 Tbl (30ml) golden syrup (or honey)
- Preheat oven to 200°C and line a flat baking tray with non-stick baking paper. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the dry ingredients then make a well in the centre. Pour in the liquid ingredients then using your fingers, lightly combine into a loose and wet dough. You might need to add a little more flour to bind everything together depending on the consistency of your buttermilk. Don’t over-mix or knead.
- As best as you can, pat the dough with floured hands to a circular mound then place on your baking tray. Cut a cross over the bread then bake for 45 minutes. It is ready when it sounds ‘hollow’ when you tap the bottom of the bread. Transfer to a wire rack, lay a slightly damp tea towel over the top then leave to cool completely (the tea towel will help keep the moisture in and the crust from being tooth-breaking).
- Best eaten on the day or toasted the next.
- * For buttermilk in a pinch, add two tablespoons of white vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring jug then pour enough milk to make it 500ml. Stand for 10 minutes to get slightly curdly then use. Bear in mind that the bread might be denser than if you were to use a proper buttermilk.
- Recipe slightly adapted from Richard Corrigan, an Irish Michelin-star chef, who wrote a brilliant cookbook and memoir of his life growing up on a farm in Ireland, The Clatter of Fork and Spoons: Honest Happy Food (highly recommended reading!).