July 24, 2013

soda bread

I am not sure if I am lazy, or just pressed for time, but increasingly I have come to seriously rate recipes that are:
a. straightforward   b. quick to make (even if they cook long and slow while I do other things)  c. use readily available, good quality ingredients  d. are lip-smackingly delicious

I just want minimum faff for maximum tastiness. So although I love the thought of bread making with its kneading, rising, proving and baking, quite often I just don't have the time. I aspire to have the time, it is a goal to have the time, but often I fail to manage it. This is why soda bread, so beloved by the Irish, is an absolute winner - no rising, proving or kneading, just assemblage of a few ingredients and a bit of light mixing. Even I can't moan about that kind of effort load! And it is so delicious, all warm and fragrant, more cakey than a yeasted loaf, (l have no problem with 'extra cakiness!), and just delicious eaten warm from the oven with a slick of butter and jam or honey.

I had hung back from making soda bread largely because of the soda element - I seem jinxed using any thing more than a pinch in recipes - I can taste its bitterness and find it leaves an aftertaste in my mouth. But then I found a recipe for soda bread in the wondrous River Cottage Handbook that uses baking powder instead so I have been using that ( - I know there is bicarb in there but the jinx has no power in baking powder!!).

So here it is: a la Handbook:

2 loaves:
500g plain white flour plus extra for dusting
10g salt
4 tsp baking powder
300ml buttermilk, thin white yoghurt or milk

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C, Gas Mark 6

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl and add buttermilk/other liquid to make a dough. It is an ugly dough really, slightly stringy and unpromising with none of the silky springiness of traditionally kneaded dough. Panic not.

Mix until thoroughly combined, divide in half and make into 2 rough rounds, pat to flatten slightly.. Flour loaves, place on baking tray and cut a cross on the top of each one, almost through to the bottom and stab lightly all over.

Bake for 25 mins, or when base sound hollow when tapped. Cool for a few minutes on a rack. Dig in.

That is it! How quick and simple is that - delicious home made bread from scratch in about 40 minutes. And it is so good, I tell you. Warm, and slightly cakey, perfect for breakfast or delicious with soup, cheese, cold meats. It is great for open sandwiches, maybe with smoked salmon, cream cheese and rocket, or mozzarella and tomato, but doesn't really have the springiness to make traditional sarnies.

The fun thing is it is also endlessly tweakable, which makes it very versatile. You can use wholemeal flour for a heftier loaf (with a slug of black treacle for sweetness), or 50/50 or white spelt flour. I love adding walnuts and sultanas, which is ridiculously good with a slightly sharp, crumbly English cheese like Wensleydale - I am trying not to drool over the keyboard just thinking of that tangy, sweet, more-ish combo! It is also fabulous made with a dough incorporating crumbled feta and spring onions, or sundried tomatoes and parmesan, seeds, herbs...

It is best eaten warm on the day of baking, but makes fantastic toast for a good couple of days after that. Enjoy!

P.S. Don't forget this recipe when the autumnal soups roll round in a couple of months! :)


  1. you're making me hungry Belinda.........

  2. Thanks for this Belinda. I am going to make it to accompany the 'Secret' Soup I make in summer.

  3. I am impressed Belinda! It's a long time ago since I made a bread of my own. I don't think you are lazy at all, just practical!

    It looks delicious!

    Madelief x

  4. I've just licked my screen ... wonder how to clean it? Looks good enough to do the conversion. Thanks!

  5. From the fiction of Twitter Tweets to the reality of a great recipe! Thank you for sharing your soda bread magic, Belinda, which I will now be able to enjoy with some of my apricot jam ;-)


    1. OOhh, that apricot jam, I want to make some to go with the bread! x

  6. Is it really that easy? I must try. I do bake bread with one of those machines. Easy too but may be a bit artificial.
    Thanks for the tip (my prize for finding a little time for blogging today!) :-)

    1. It really really is that easy. I was almost embarrassed to post it! Give it a go! x

  7. I love soda bread! We make all our bread but side bread often makes an appearance because it is so delicious!