Down By The Sea Soda Bread

It’s been years (really, it has!) since I gave you a soda bread recipe. It doesn’t mean I’ve stopped baking soda bread, but mostly we’re a sourdough household right now.

Best friend Ria baked herself a loaf recently, so jumping on her soda bread bandwagon, I baked one too. I used the whey from curd cheese making, once again, but the recipe usually calls for buttermilk. This recipe is different from my Up The Mountain Soda Bread as it does not include oats or butter. Try both and see which one you prefer!

Soda Bread Sliced 002

Ingredients to make one loaf (keeps well for about 4 days)

  • 250g plain flour
  • 250 wholemeal or granary flour (I used granary which gives it a slightly sweeter, nuttier taste and a slightly chewy texture)
  • About 400ml of buttermilk or whey (if you don’t have either, squeeze half a tablespoon of lemon juice into milk, stir and leave it to stand for 30 minutes at room temperature and then it will be ready to use)
  • 1 teaspoon of Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

Mix the flours together with the salt and bicarbonate. Gradually stir in the liquid with a wooden spoon or your fingers. You may find you don’t need it all, but you want to end up with a slightly sticky mixture.

Dust your worktop with flour and shape the mix into a round. Try not to knead too much, it just needs to come together.

Place the loaf onto a baking tin lined with greaseproof (or baking) paper. Cut a deep cross into the loaf, almost all the way through. This will allow the heat to penetrate and the alkaline of the bicarbonate and the acid of the buttermilk will work together to make your loaf rise. I’m afraid I’m no great scientist, so apologies if my explanation of the bread magic is somewhat simple!

Dust the loaf with flour, cover with a clean tea towel and leave, if possible, for 30 minutes, You can bake immediately if you choose but this extra 30 minutes really seems to allow the acid and alkaline to start doing their thing so that the loaf is raring to go when it reaches the heat of the oven. Don’t expect it to rise before baking like a regular loaf.

Soda Bread 002

Heat your oven to 200 degrees and when you are ready, bake the loaf for about 30 minutes. It should be browned on the top and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Leave to cool, if you can resist, and enjoy in the same way as a regular bread.

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Give us this day our daily bread…

I make our bread several times a week. I enjoy the process and now that I’m using my starter Hercules, Son of Priscilla (thanks Celia!), my loaves are going from strength to strength. I confess that most of the time I make my usual sourdough loaf, starting the process the night before and baking early evening of the next day.

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Other times I use Celia’s overnight sourdough recipe which gives fantastic results and I took on board her tip of dusting the loaf in semolina flour for a crunchy crust. Clearly, as she’s my bread making heroine/guru and I am her keen student/bread making stalker, I also made some teeny tiny loaves (like she did) using some small loaf tins I had bought to make cakes in but had never used. They turned out wonderfully and were the perfect size for a hugely filling lunch roll.

Bread 001

The last few weeks have given me time too to do a little experimenting and for Easter Sunday my father requested a loaf with whole eggs baked into the top of the dough, as this is what his mother used to make when he was a boy. I Googled Calabrian Easter bread and most of the recipes led me to make a slightly sweet bread, gently flavoured with anis and made using eggs and milk. The least said about the egg dyeing the better, but everyone enjoyed it. We all felt that it was like milk bread or pan de leche as it’s called in Spain and would probably prefer to eat it as a breakfast or tea time bread. I’m going to experiment making it again in small rolls so once I’ve perfected it, I’ll post the recipe.

Italian Easter Bread 001

The most recent experiment was to use my sourdough starter to make a whole grain loaf. I wasn’t really sure what sort of results I’d get as wholemeal flour tends to rise more slowly than white flour and give a heavier bread. Combined with a slow rising, heavy sourdough loaf I was a little concerned I’d end up baking the cornerstone of our next building project, but using a mix of a flour which contained wholemeal, wheat flakes and bran with a strong white bread flour, I got fantastic results. The bread was malty, tangy and chewy and delicious spread with butter or drizzled with olive oil. I followed the same process as my usual loaf, but didn’t add olive oil. I added an extra knead and a slightly longer bake.

Ingredients

For the sponge

  • 100ml of unfed sourdough starter (mine is fed with the same volume of flour and water)
  • 250g wholemeal flour with flakes and grains
  • 300ml water

For the dough

  • 300g strong white bread flour
  • 10g salt

The night before you want to bake (or fit this into your usual baking routine), mix the ingredients for the sponge, cover and leave overnight or for about 8 hours. Don’t forget to feed your original starter to replace what you took out!

Bread 006

The next day, add the remaining flour and salt and in a mixer with a dough hook (this is quite a wet dough) knead for 10-12 minutes until the dough looks stretchy and elastic.

Turn it into a large, oiled bowl and cover with oiled cling film. Leave it to double in size, mine took about 5 hours, but it will be different for everyone. Turn out of the bowl onto an oiled surface, knock it back, form it into a ball and put it back into the oiled bowl and cover again. Leave to rise again, this should only take a couple of hours, and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. I didn’t use semolina but feel free to use whatever you like best.

Knock back and shape either onto a round or put into a floured banneton (which is what I did). Cover with a tea towel and leave to double in size.

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Just before you are about to bake, turn your oven on to heat at top “volume” with an oven tray inside if you are going to turn out from a banneton. Once the oven has reached its temperature, carefully take the tray out and turn your loaf onto it. Slash with a very sharp or serrated knife, put it in the oven and turn the temperature down to 150C (Fan) and bake for about 55 minutes until nicely browned and it sounds hollow when tapped on it’s lovely wholemeal bottom.

Drive yourself crazy for a few hours while it cools with the wonderful smell of your freshly baked loaf and enjoy whichever way you most enjoy bread!

Up The Mountain Soda Bread

Time to get the butter out of the fridge...

When Big Man and I went to Dublin at the end of last year, one of the things we really enjoyed eating was Soda Bread.  It´s a staple they serve with bowls of fish soup (and lots of other things too), it really filled you up on what was a very wet and windy November weekend.

This morning, bread man let me down, but I didn´t mind too much as I had been looking for a reason to use up the whey (or maybe it´s called something else) which came off the yogurt and cream cheese I had made the day before.

I turned to the BBC Good Food Website for a recipe.  I like this site because people like you and me cook the recipes and then give their feedback about what worked and what didn´t.  They´re usually pretty reliable recipes too, and the first one that popped up had 5 stars, so I thought I´d give it a go.

Ingredients called for were:

250g plain flour

250g whole meal flour

100g oats

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp salt

25g butter

500 ml of buttermilk

I substituted my whey for the buttermilk and found that I only needed about 400ml, so add your liquid gradually – much will depend on the absorbency of your flour.

Heat the oven to 180ºC and flour a flat baking tray. Mix the dry ingredients together and then gradually add the liquid until you have a soft and not too wet dough.

Shape it into a round and put in the baking tray then cut a cross in the top. Supposedly this is to let the fairies out (so sweet) but actually helps rising.  And leaves you with lots of little good spirits flying round your kitchen of course!

All the fairies have been let out...

Bake for about 30-35 minutes until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped then leave to cool on a baking tray.  I confess, I love this smothered in creamy butter (I don´t eat it very often here, so I feel justified) but it´s just as delicious on its own.

When we were in Ireland, we were also told that if you see a lone tree in the middle of a field, it´s very magical, a fairy tree and brings good fortune.  If I stand on my roof terrace and look across to the field next to our house, we have a fairy tree all our own…so here´s a snap of it.  Am surrounded by the little people today it seems!

Away with the fairies today....!