I was inspired by Kate the Bake to make French Onion Soup yesterday for our tea, but you can’t have soup without bread and I didn’t feel like trekking through the snow to the bakery. Our very good neighbour, Dr. Bob, kindly bought me a brilliant book for Christmas, which I spent many hours over the holiday devouring – Darina Allen’s (2009) Forgotten Skills of Cooking (Kyle Cathie Limited). I thoroughly recommend that you get yourself down to the bookshop or online immediately and get yourself a copy. It has over 700 recipes covering all the basics and traditional recipes (stuffed goose neck anyone?) and it has sections on foraging, keeping chickens, butchering, growing your own veg etc. It’s a wonderful compendium which will be keeping me busy in the kitchen for years to come (so, thanks Dr Bob).
Anyway, to get back to the point, Darina has a recipe for Beginner’s Brown Soda Bread and I have never made soda bread before so it sounded perfect. It can also be prepared and baked in 1½ hours, so if you are a bit short of time and you need your bread quickly this is perfect.
I was very pleased with the results, the loaf rose beautifully with the soda and the crust was particularly delicious. I was particularly pleased when my daughter came home from school and said “Oh wow, a homemade loaf, I love homemade bread” and asked for a slice with butter and Marmite. That made me feel very glad I hadn’t trekked to the bakery.
If like me you haven’t made soda bread before I urge you to try it.
I didn’t have any buttermilk in the house so I took Darina’s advice and added two tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice to 600ml (1 pint) of milk instead. The dough is extremely sticky but don’t be concerned by this as it is supposed to be like this, and if yours isn’t then you will need to add more liquid.
400g (14oz) wholemeal flour
75g (3oz) plain white flour, (Darina specifies unbleached if you can get it)
1 tsp salt, (Darina specifies dairy salt, which is finer and purer than normal salt, but I only have sea salt in the house so I used that)
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda, sieved
1 tbsp sunflower oil
1 teaspoon honey ( or treacle or soft brown sugar)
425ml (¾ pint) buttermilk (or add 2 tbsp of lemon juice to 600 ml (1 pint) milk)
Grease a loaf tin with vegetable oil. Preheat the oven to 200°c (gas mark 6).
Put the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl and mix well. Make a well in the centre ready for the wet ingredients.
Whisk the egg and add it to the oil, honey (or treacle or sugar), and the buttermilk (or lemon juice/milk mixture). Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and using your clean hands mix well. The dough should be very sticky, Darina describes it as ‘soft and slightly sloppy’, if it’s not add more buttermilk. Pour into the loaf tin and bake for about 1 hour. To test take it out of its tin and tap the bottom, if it’s cooked it will sound hollow.
Allow to cool before eating if you can manage it.