People always say that they don’t make bread because they don’t have enough time. I challenge anybody who says that to make this incredibly simple soda bread.
Soda bread is quite different to how normal bread is made. For me I find using plain flour is better than strong bread flour as the lower gluten content is much better suited to the texture and structure of soda bread. As the bread dough is not kneaded, the extra gluten is not required for the yeast’s production of carbon dioxide.
In fact yeast isn’t used as the raising agent in soda bread rather, as the name suggests bicarbonate of soda. Yeast breaks down glucose into carbon dioxide and ethanol but in soda bread, a neutralisation reaction occurs and the alkaline bicarbonate of soda reacts with an acid, usually in the form of lactic acid which is present in buttermilk and yoghurt, to form carbon dioxide.
With the science over, back to the food. If you cannot find buttermilk or find it is expensive you can replace it with 250g natural yoghurt with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 50ml of water added or make your own version of buttermilk, which you can find by clicking here.
To make it healthier, you can replace some of the plain flour with wholemeal flour. Soda bread is great toasted for breakfast or as an accompaniment to smoked salmon, cornichons and dill cream cheese. You can make the dough prettier and healthier by brushing the top with some milk and sprinkling over some rolled oats or seeds.
Makes enough for 1 large loaf, 4 large rolls or 6 medium rolls
500g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
40g butter, melted
1 tbsp black treacle, optional
Approximately 325ml buttermilk – you may need slightly more or less
- Preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Place the dry ingredients into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the melted butter and treacle, if using, and enough of the buttermilk to form a loose but sticky dough.
- On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough gently for 30 seconds until the outside is smooth. Form the dough into a ball by tucking the dough underneath with your hands in a cup shape.
- Place the dough onto a baking tray and press down with your hands slightly. Mark a cross shape using the end of a wooden spoon and dust the bread with some more flour.
- Bake the loaf for 30 – 40 minutes until the bread is browned and the dough inside the cross is not damp.