Soda bread is one of the easiest breads to bake. They say baking is more of a science than an art but when they do they are certainly not talking about soda bread, it’s one of the most forgiving recipes you’ll meet. It takes only a few minutes to throw together, no kneading is required, throw it in the oven and bake until you have a gorgeously crusty and wholesomely dense loaf.
With carbohydrates getting a bit of a bashing over the last decade or so it can be difficult to remember that bread, wholemeal homemade (or good shop/bakery bought) bread, is packed with nutrients and fibre. Wholemeal flour contains vitamin B1, B2, B3, E, folic acid, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron, and fibre. No wonder it’s been a staple in people’s daily diet for centuries.
Buttermilk is also very good for you. Buttermilk is a byproduct of making butter and so it is lower in fat than whole milk as the fat has been removed to make the butter. It is also a good source of calcium, vitamin B12 and phosphorus.
Much of the vitamins these ingredients contain are lost while baking but the fibre and minerals such as the calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper and iron remain.
I’ve had this recipe for years and changed it as my tastes or needs change. I used to use only wholemeal flour, no white flour at all, and I really do like the texture of this type of bread, but it only keeps for 2 days, by day 3 it’s very dry. I also used to add more liquid and bake in a loaf tin, this was necessary if using only wholemeal flour, but adding plain flour makes the dough a little more flexible, a little more bound together, so now I can bake a round cake of bread on a flour dusted baking sheet instead. If you find you have added too much liquid, simply bake the bread in a greased loaf tin.
When I first made this bread I was cutting out dairy from my diet so I used soya milk with a tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice. If you don’t want to use dairy you can easily substitute soya or almond milk mixed with lemon juice for the buttermilk. Buttermilk has a much thicker consistency though so you might need to play around with the measurements. It is also possible to leave out the egg. If you don’t want to use egg add two more tablespoons of oil.
Soda bread is definitely more of an art so play around with different ingredients and measurements to find your own masterpiece. Just don’t forget the bread soda or the sour element to the liquid.
- 300g (stoneground) wholemeal flour
- 100g plain white flour
- 1 level teaspoon (fine-ground) salt
- 3 tablespoon sunflower oil
- 1 large egg
- 225ml buttermilk (or soured milk)
- 1 level teaspoon bread soda (dissolved in 1 tablespoon of warm water)
- fistful of seeds to decorate
- Heat the oven to 200°C / 400°F / G M 6
- Add the flour and salt into a bowl and mix together well.
- Add the oil and gently rub into the flour with your fingers.
- Whisk the egg and stir it into the buttermilk along with the dissolved bread soda.
- Mix the liquid into the flour and shape into a round cake.
- Dust a baking tray or tin with flour and place the cake on it.
- Cut a deep cross, but not more than a third of the way down, into the cake. If you don’t cut into the dough you can’t really predict where the bumps and grooves will appear as the bread rises. Also, this pattern helps when slicing the bread.
- Scatter some seeds over the top. It’s for garnish but they add a lot of taste too.
- Bake in the oven for 40 – 60 minutes, until crust is golden and when you tap the bottom it has a hollow sound.
- When ready, take from oven and leave to cool on wire tray.