I’m quite obviously addicted to baking, which most commonly takes the form of cakes…large and small and of many different varieties! However, every now and again I have a longing to master the art of bread baking. I think the reason I keep putting it off isn’t the technical aspect but the fact that it takes so damn long! I love the (nearly) instant gratification you get from cake baking…mixing up the cake batter, licking the spoon, popping it in the oven and being rewarded by, first it’s divine sugary aroma, and then, a beautiful freshly baked cake, all within an hour (depending on variety obviously).
I do however, love bread, especially of the wholemeal, seedy, substantial variety! I decided to end my bread baking evasion and meet it in the middle somewhere by trying my hand at Irish soda bread. It doesn’t use yeast so there’s no hanging around waiting for it to rise but has all of the winning bread characteristics mentioned above.
Without a modicum of modesty, I’m extremely proud to announce that my first soda bread attempt was a victory…
I used Rachel Allen’s ‘Brown Soda Bread’ recipe as a starting point but went a bit off piste with my choice of flours.
To try it yourself you need…
225g wholemeal flour. I used this seed and grain bread flour and it worked a treat.
225g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
Rachel suggests adding 50g mixed seeds such as sesame, pumpkin, sunflower or golden linseeds but the beauty of using the seed and grain bread flour was that they’d added those for me already! 🙂
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees.
Sift the plain flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl. There’s not point trying to sift the wholemeal flour as you’re really not going to get very far so just mix it in afterwards.
Add the butter and rub it into the flour mixture with your fingers tips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Beat the egg and buttermilk together in another bowl.
Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the majority of the liquid ingredients into it.
Now, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get involved…use a hand to bring the flour and liquid together. It’s a messy old process so just embrace it and get stuck in! If it looks a bit dry, add a bit more of the buttermilk mixture. Your aiming for a soft dough that’s not too sticky. Don’t panic, if it IS too sticky, all is not lost, just sprinkle in a tad more flour.
When you’re happy with it, turn your dough onto a floured surface and shape it into a round that’s about 4cm high and cut a deep cross into the top like so…
Place it on a baking tray and pop it into the oven for 15 minutes. Then turn down the heat to 200 degrees and bake for a further 30 minutes. You’ll know when it’s ready because it’ll sound hollow when you tap it on the bottom and it should look a little something like this…
I made myself wait until it had cooled before tucking in but I can confirm that it was definitely worth the wait!…
I think I’ve found the perfect bread recipe for even the most impatient of people, like me. Prepared, cooked and cooled within an hour and a half and…entirely delicious! I already have plans to make another loaf this weekend as an accompaniment to… ‘Jool’s favourite beef stew’ ,a Jamie Oliver special, which my brother’s cooking up as a special Mother’s Day treat for us all! Yum!